The Ambulance Syndrome in Problem Solving

Ambulances are doing great service to the humanity by saving lives of millions around the world in case of emergency.

There was a pit adjacent to a busy road, A person unwawre about it, accidently fell into it. A group of pedestrians walking by helped him. Someone pulled him out of the pit. They called his relatives, arranged firstaid and called an Ambulance.

The ambulance arrieved and took the person to a nearby hospital.

But what is this? as soon as the ambulance left, another person fell into the same pit. The same process was repeated by supporting people.

A Quality Manager of a large industry present at the incident site, instructed all padestrains who were helping, to first fill up the pit, so no one else would fall in pit again.

“Can’t you see, We are all busy rescuing?” came an immediate reply from the group of people who were busy helping.

So what is important “To fill up the Pit” or “To rescue a person”? No doubt, it is very important to rescue a person immediately, but we must not say “We don’t have time for improvement”. We must work for prevention after containment action.

So in industry people have time for resolving customer complaint, doing repair, doing rework, doing rectification, doing salvage etc…. but when you ask them to spend time for taking up an improvement project they immediately say “We are busy”. So we have all time to call an ambulance, but no time to fill up the pit. Its like what comes first “Chicken or Egg” If you don’t improve, you can’t get time free time and you don’t improve because you don’t have time.

I usually call this phrase “We do not have time for improvement initiatives” as “The Ambulance Syndrome” and I explained this with the above given story.

I have hardly met an individual or a group not saying “We do not have time for Improvement initiatives” in my consulting career of 23+ years.

Do you also face similar situation? Do you also agree with this?

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