Learning From The Dabbawala
July 15, 2008 1 Comment
Have you heard of the dabbawala? Well, I hadn’t until I ran across an article in The Economist called The cult of the dabbawala. It turns out that this group in Mumbai that delivers daily lunches has attained incredible levels of operational efficiency without the use of any technology. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Using an elaborate system of colour-coded boxes to convey over 170,000 meals to their destinations each day, the 5,000-strong dabbawala collective has built up an extraordinary reputation for the speed and accuracy of its deliveries… The system the dabbawalas have developed over the years revolves around strong teamwork and strict time-management… The meals are then delivered-99.9999% of the time, to the right address.
My take: It’s good to see very clearly that technology is not the solution to all problems. By developing and maintaining a very simple system with clear rules, people can understand and deliver on the objectives of that system and consistently meet customer expectations; just like the dabbawala.
The bottom line: Many processes can use a simplicity makeover.