Newsletter – Cruise director is a spider

In early January I was fortunate enough to take a five day cruise with the family. It was an enjoyable vacation and everyone had a good time. However, because I’m so tainted and utterly deformed by Lean Six Sigma I see almost all experiences through the lens of continuous improvement. With that said let me introduce you to the cruise ship’s version of a “Water Spider” – the Cruise Director.
A water spider (or water strider) is a mosquito looking insect that can move across the top of water with little effort. It is also a job title in many Lean Six Sigma organizations. This person enables workers to stay focused on value-adding work. The Lean Six Sigma water spider is an experienced manager who watches the entire operation. He or she re-fills inventories, trains workers, eliminates safety hazards, fixes machines, makes decisions when the unpredictable occurs, and can step in to almost any position if necessary. This is the hands-on conductor of operations.
Cruise ships have the “Cruise Director” who seems to be everywhere. Our cruise director (Cuddy) facilitated competitions, made announcements, spoke to guests at dinner, interviewed the captain, had his own television channel, and was a key go-to person during the entire cruise. Cuddy is a water spider!
In Lean Six Sigma organizations the water spider is a vital role to be filled with the most experienced person. The problem is a water spider is technically a non-value-added position, so supervisors who don’t understand Lean Six Sigma either staff with an inexperienced person or cut the position in the name of efficiency.
Going on a cruise without a cruise director would have been a much less enjoyable experience, especially if the unexpected happens.  An orchestra needs a conductor and operations need a water spider. Plus, it is a very cool job title.
Dinner party conversation.
Q: “So what do you do?”
A: “I’m a water spider”
Anchors away, Erik