Voice of the Team – Wailing Walls

Voice of the Team – Wailing Walls

The Wailing Wall is an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. The wall was originally erected as a Jewish Temple begun by Herod the Great, which resulted in the encasement of the natural, steep hill known to Jews and Christians. For Muslims, it is the site where the Islamic Prophet Muhammad tied his steed, al-Buraq, on his night journey to Jerusalem before ascending to paradise.

Pilgrims may often be seen sitting for hours at the Wailing-place bent in sorrowful prayer and repeating oftentimes the words of the Seventy-ninth Psalm.

Voice of the Team

Experience and research highlights that there is a strong correlation between employee satisfaction, behaviours and attracting and retaining our most valuable asset.

By my observation, as they work, teams find many frustrations. These frustrations often prevent the smooth flow of value to our customers.

However, human nature being what it is, teams find work arounds and ways and coping with the Systems of Work, inefficient processes and policies to do whatever it takes to get the job done for the customer. Even though these systems are difficult to use and manage processes teams block these frustrations and it becomes “normal”.

Over the years I have experimented with a few ways to get people who work at the coal face to take a step back, look with a fresh pair of eyes and recognise that there is always room for improvement.

One of my more creative ideas was to ask people to list their frustrations about their work, often breaking it further down to list the following themes:

  • Customer
  • Staff or Team
  • Facilities

Using post it’s, the individuals are asked to write up their frustrations and pin them up on the wall.

I remembered a story about the wailing wall of Jerusalem. I had heard that it was a custom of pilgrims to visit the Western Wall in the old city and say their prayers. In fact, some pilgrims would write their prayers on a piece of paper and tuck it into the cracks in the wall hoping to elevate their prayers.

So, from here I tell the story that the placing of frustrations Post it’s and placing on the wall is a version of “a wailing wall” of things we wish to resolve.

This technique allows people freedom in a framework to critique their work and workplace, but in the spirit of continuous improvement. It also put them in the customer mindset so that they take a minute to consider how their services are received.

Auckland Leisure took to their “wailing walls” with great enthusiasm, and created them in a form that encouraged regular review and a steady working through of the issues and frustrations raised.

There is an observation here, and I must agree. Some of the Lean mindset and language can be quite negative and it often makes people feel that they are being overly criticised.

We talk of waste, poor communication, rework and lack of good processes, so the “wailing wall” paired with the “wall of awesome” is a good way to show respect for people. And for employees it’s a visual way to identify both the positives and negatives and systematically work through them to remove some of the obstacles that get in the way of our everyday work.

Above is an example of the “Wailing Wall” at Mangere Pools & Leisure “Status Update”

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