It was the 5th “corona-morning” in our home, when we couldn’t prepare for work or kindergarten. And (of course) my daughter woke up at 6 AM, whilst during normal week we would have a fight at 8 AM trying to get her out of the bed. You know, it’s the children version of Murphy’s law. She found a book with exercises, which we bought during Christmas time, and singing about Santa Claus we solved puzzles and mazes. Then I heard a bit nervous: “Mama!”. You simply know, when it starts to go wrong. It was that moment and situation I faced was a bottle of carrot juice (approximately 200 ml), very dense and sticky juice, spilled on the table… and on my books, and on purple earbuds, and on her coloring book.
Triage is, in medical terms, “the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition” (1). The modern version of triage was invented during Napoleon’s war and further developed during World Wars.
“Those responsible for the removal of the wounded from a battlefield or their care afterwards would divide the victims into three categories:
- Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive;
- Those who are unlikely to live, regardless of what care they receive;
- Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome.” (2)
We also observe using triage in hospitals’ Emergency Rooms or in different emergency medical services (EMS) systems. “When medical resources are insufficient to treat everyone, we try to provide the maximum benefit to the maximum number of people. We do this by making tough sorting decisions at the intake point (…). Triage works whenever we have sufficient information to make good judgments at the intake point.”(3)
For the need of my “carrot case”, let’s categorize the above 3 groups as:
- Category 1 – will be fine
- Category 2 – no chance to survive
- Category 3 – needs immediate help
Afterall it was only juice. I didn’t have to decide about anyone’s life.
And do you remember, when I wrote about the cost of delay and classes of services? In this case I had only two: expedite and standard for Category 3 items.
Ok, time for practical application! (4)
Here is how triage worked in my mind for the first 15 seconds:
- child – nervous but safe, Category 1 (prio 1), class of service (CoS): standard
- computer – safe, Category 1, no help needed
- my books – I need them desperately to work and cannot re-order new versions due to coronavirus; they are partially drowned in the juice, so need to quickly separate them into Category 1 (yet dry) and Category 3 (prio 1), CoS: expedite
- her books – few carrot spots only, Category 1 (prio 2), CoS: standard
- earbuds – drowned in juice, but I use them only when travelling to work; right now no travelling to work as we stay home due to coronavirus; on the other hand it would be good if they survive; Category 3 (prio 2), CoS: expedite
- table – juice was dense and it quickly stopped moving towards floor; Category 1 (prio 3); CoS: standard
Fortunately no fatal injuries around.
Here is the summary of work sequencing for today morning:
|To take care for:||Triage category||CoD/CoS||Prio within category|
|My books||Cat. 3||Expedite||Prio 1|
|Earbuds||Cat. 3||Expedite||Prio 2|
|Child||Cat. 1||Standard||Prio 1|
|Child’s books||Cat. 1||Standard||Prio 2|
|Table||Cat. 1||Standard||Prio 3|
Daughter waited for me, whilst I was removing juice from the books and earbuds and helped with drying them. Only two suffered battle wounds. Earbuds were put safely in her giraffe cup.
Working together on solving the problem helped immediately with Category 1, prio 1 issue (code name: “Child”).
Then we quickly removed orange spots from her books (just a few of them, but for a 4-year old it’s a huge problem!) and finally cleaned the table, which queued in silence patiently.
We also had retrospective time!
I heard from my daughter: “It was my fault…” It always breaks my heart into pieces, but I hardly try to use each occasion to work in this area.
So I used this situation to show her, how we could behave (sitting and arguing whose fault it was) and what we actually did (working together on removing damage and solving the problem). I repeated a few times: when we have a problem, we solve it. At the end of “retro” I asked her: “Honey, what do we do, when we have a problem next time?”, “We solve it!”, she said. And I felt happy.
To summarize the life lessons of applying triage, cost of delay and classes of services into work sequencing:
1. Know your product or service – doing triage, you have to realize consequences of your actions and decisions (e.g. I would prioritize differently, if my child was 1 month or 1 year old)?
2. Know your needs – remember what you need the product or service for, how does it correlate to other items on your plate, how quickly you can restock your inventory (e.g. I would prioritize differently, if all of the books were there for fun and not for work or if I had PDF versions of them)?
3. Know your cost of delay – how much does it cost you, if you don’t have something now or if you delay a production/delivery/defect fixing (in this case – delay in removing juice from different spaces in my room)?
4. Know additional circumstances – is there anything else that affects above decisions (e.g. we stuck home due to coronavirus protection, which changed priority for books and earbuds)?
Thanks for reading!
Keep calm and triage 🙂
“Fun” fact – one of the books, which was the subject of immediate treatment, was Don Reinertsen’s “The principles of product development flow”, where I read for the first time about triage and cost of delay. This is life irony, but thank you, Don!
(3) D. Reinertsen, “The principles of product development flow”, Celeritas Publishing, 2009, p. 248
(4) You can also try shorten video version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNn0qgVGS18