Lean Helps Zoo Keepers Improve Elephant Foot Washing

During a Lean Talks presentation, Jeff Foster, the San Diego Zoo Global‘s Chief Director of Continuous Improvement, noted that although work for most people will not involve improving how pachyderm pods are swabbed, the same improvement principles apply such as supporting “process owners,” the people closest to the work.

So when veterinarians had difficulty reaching through the elephant enclosure’s heavy metal fencing with water and soap, elephant keepers, the enclosure’s “process owners,” suggested an improvement that the vets rejected. But Foster gave the go-ahead to the proposal, which involved altering the fence slightly and teaching the afflicted elephant a new trick.

“We cut a hole in the fence, the elephant sticks his foot through, and we were able to clean it with absolutely no problem,” Foster said. The lesson: no matter the work, “The process owner knows the process better than anybody else –always.”

The Lean Talks video now to see a picture of the improved washing process and hear Jeff’s tips on how he leads and influences people, including:

  • The four leadership attributes that he stresses and the one he considers most important;
  • How to influence people so they become problem solvers;
  • The three levels of change people go through and why recognizing each one helps you lead;
  • How to build momentum for a continuous improvement effort.

Read the article on the LEI website at: https://www.lean.org/LeanPost/Posting.cfm?LeanPostId=1013