Monday, August 22, 2011

Bubble Exercise

Six volunteers stood unsteadily at the front of the Buwenge Entrepreneurship classroom. “What would this mzungu ask us to do?” they wondered. This week’s study was about managing operations and to illustrate process mapping for efficiency we did a little exercise.

  • One person held a yellow container of bubbles.
  • One person held the bubble wand.
  • One person blew bubbles from the wand.
  • One person held the makeshift ruler next to the bubbles (no easy task).
  • One person called out the size of the bubble.
  • One person recorded that size on the blackboard.

After the woman holding the ruler was totally exhausted, the group had recorded about eight bubble sizes in one minute. We talked about what worked, what didn’t work, and what they wanted to change. In essence, they made a few tweaks but felt the operation was fairly efficient. Okay, let’s do it again with the improvements you suggested. Again, chaos.

Finally an observer commented that only one person was needed to hold the bubbles, the wand, and blow and that the process would be much easier if so many people weren’t crowded up front. Two people lost their jobs that day. More suggestions for efficiency were made and the now three-person group repeated the exercise with triple the results. Watching the light bulbs go on is the highlight for any teacher.

Each team worked on diagramming processes specific to their projects and then looked for efficiencies within those processes. One person commented that they started to recognize how being very detailed in their descriptions actually helped them see things they’d never acknowledged before. This group has been amazing in their eagerness to learn and apply what they’ve learned. Such dedication from this unique business model for a community-driven organization with a passion for helping orphans.