The Ape, The Little Girl, The Dog and The Chicken


    Lean Six Sigma Process Improvements, whether they are in business processes or in software development, suffer greatly from the force of habit. Habits are hard to change!

    Shigeo Shingo brings up an experiment done with an Ape, a little girl (representing human beings in general), a Chicken and a Dog.

    A Circular cage is placed down with an ape inside it, and the cage closed. Outside, just within reach of the cage, food is usually placed and the ape reaches through the bars, gets the food and eats it.

    Now the food is moved just outside the reach of the ape but the door to the cage on the other side of the cage is left open. The Ape takes a long time to figure out that it can walk out the back and get the food by coming around the cage.

    When the same experiment is repeated with a little girl, a chicken and a dog, interesting results are obtained. Surprisingly, the dog figures out the soonest among these three how to get to the food!

    The Chicken just flaps its wings, throwing itself against the cage trying to get to the food even though the cage door is open at the back!

    The order of the quickest beings to figure out the solution to the problem is The Dog, The Little Girl, The Ape and then, the Chicken.

    The point of this experiment and its implications for human beings is that we are creatures of habit and it may be even tougher for us to break the force of habit than even a dog!

    Continuous Process Improvement and Lean Six Sigma Improvement efforts may need to contend with the force of habit – more often than they would like – in real situations!

    The world is changing all the time, and new technologies offer themselves up often providing faster, better and cheaper ways to do things, only if you are watchful enough! Just like the participants in the above experiment, the force of habit may not open our eyes to open cage doors that quickly.

    The Internet and Digitization are two such "game changing" open cage doors. Even five years ago, you may have had to fill out an application for a new credit card and wait for weeks and months to receive a decision on whether your credit card application was approved. These days, you can go fill out an application online and get a new credit card decision in a matter of a few seconds!

    However, keeping an eye on these changes and capitalizing on them quickly will enable Continuous Process Improvement and Lean Six Sigma efforts do things better, faster and cheaper!

    Habits are first cobwebs, then cables. — Spanish Proverb


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