Giving Back What You Are Best At

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It is Holidays season. Office teams all over round up their members for a day of giving back (team building and photo-op)

  • Serve food and clean up at local soup kitchen.
  • Stack up donated food donations at local food back.
  •  Gift wrap donated (by others) gifts for foster kids.

If it were summer time, it will be a different set of activities

  • Weeding a public park by pulling them out with roots (because the organizers do not want to use herbicide made by evil corporation that patented seeds)
  • Picking up trash in a neighborhood
  • Digging a  ditch

There is nothing wrong with any of these. But the question is are these the most effective ways to give back given the skill sets of those teams? What kind of additional inefficiencies get introduced because we have those not adept at physical labor doing it for the same of charitable event?

Take for example what the local food banks are saying about inefficiencies introduced by activities we all love to do

“What we’ve found is that it’s the most expensive way to get food on the table of a food insecure person,” says Deborah Flateman, president of the Maryland Food Bank.

There’s the cost of sending a driver and truck to pick up the donation. Then volunteers and paid staff have to inspect the food for safety, and then they sort and box it for distribution. Those costs add up to more than $1.50 per pound of donated food, according to the food bank.

In other words we don’t have to volunteer our time stacking and sorting food at distribution site and getting our photo-op, if only there was a better way.

If our businesses are focused on driving out inefficiencies everywhere, disrupting status quo, making customer experience friction less etc., shouldn’t we be doing something else in giving back?  Like giving back what we are best at instead of pulling out weeds in most inefficient way? Take for example what Toyota did,

At a soup kitchen in Harlem, Toyota’s engineers cut down the wait time for dinner to 18 minutes from as long as 90. At a food pantry on Staten Island, they reduced the time people spent filling their bags to 6 minutes from 11. And at a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where volunteers were packing boxes of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy, a dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes.

Toyota has “revolutionized the way we serve our community,” said Margarette Purvis, the chief executive and president of the Food Bank.

What do you think?