Finding elegant solutions to ministry problems (1 of 2)

Topic / Leadership

Elegant SolutionsWhen faced with a problem we use the tools at our disposal to solve it. If the problem is urgent, we use our favorite tool. If we have more time, we might look at the tools in our tool belt and decide which tool is best. When a new problem faces us most of the time we want to use one of the following tools: programs, finances or volunteer resources. When faced with a really big problem, we use all three. An elegant solution is defined as, “A solution that uses the least amount of resources but also solves the problem in the best way.” This term was coined a few years ago within Toyota.

So here’s a real life scenario. Tell me how you’d solve this with an elegant solution.

A high end fitness club wanted to give it’s members a perk and started putting very expensive shampoo in the showers. They placed the entire bottles on each shelf in each stall and they got a tremendous response. People loved this shampoo. The problem was this: full bottles were also disappearing from the showers. The lawyers, doctors and otherwise exemplary citizens weren’t a bad element, they would just throw the bottle in their bag after they used it.

The gym decided to try to solve this problem with an elegant solution. They wanted to eliminate the stealing completely, yet they didn’t want to use any additional resources to solve the problem.

QUESTION: How would you solve this problem?

I’ll continue next week with a follow-up where we’ll draw some parallels between this and youth ministry.

Posted on May 19, 2011

  • adamwormann

    Video surveillance in the showers containing shampoo. Problem solved.

    • lol Better yet, attach the cameras to the shampoo bottles so you can get the layout of the house. Use that info to break into their house, go straight to the bottle and get it back.

  • George

    Interestinng that they do not want to use more resources but one soolution I would do is put dispensers in the showers.

  • adamwormann

    Okay, if we're thinking out of the box a little bit here, two thoughts: One is that I would put complimentary bottles for people to take. The number taken would not nearly be as great as the number taken. If you average out the cost (knowing that not everyone showers, and those that do don't always want shampoo, etc.), it's minimal and can be offset by slight membership fee increases (less than a dollar p/p) or other fees.

    Better idea: Sell them. Set up at a good location, maybe outside the locker room or something while people are still thinking about the shampoo. The goal isn't to make money selling them. When people see value on something, particularly people of this "class," they're not going to take it. They feel way to high above that. When something is complementary, it feels free. You attach value to something and people won't just take it. The location simply helps remind people during a time of "temptation." And hey, then if a couple bottles get stolen, a couple more get sold, you wind up evening out.

  • I would just let it go. No one is being wronged in this situation. It's just shampoo. Think of it as blessing others.

    • Yeah… but what if the club can't afford to keep replacing the shampoo at the rate of which people are taking it home?

  • Jeremy

    If they are wanting to fix the problem they feel they have, one option is to just put less shampoo in the bottle, of course they could still steal that. You could up the price and risk losing people (which would have ym parallels). The final option, and best in my mind, put the shampoo in hand soap dispensers that are attached to the wall.

  • Kristy

    How about just engaging the client by telling and/ posting a sign stating to not take the shampoo, but to leave it for others to enjoy, too.??

  • tom

    put the shampoo in a one gallon bottle and always keep it full. people might feel guilty taking a full gallon and besides, it would be hard to conceal.

  • Brit Windel

    have someone in the shower with them applying the shampoo…. I know more MANpower… but you know they aren't stealing anything

  • mkenn17

    I would keep the bottle 1/5 of the way full. People don't want an empty bottle! They want a full bottle and if a full bottle is not available, most people will use less shampoo anyway!

  • I really like Tom's answer about a 1 gallon bottle of shampoo. Not really practical, but he's on to something. The clients of the high end health club aren't premeditated thieves. They just like the shampoo and toss it in their bags when they're done. a 1 gallon bottle would be a barrier to them just throwing it into their bags impulsively simply because it's awkward and silly. You wouldn't even have to keep it full.
    It's not the solution the health club came up with, but it would work.
    Having a 10 lb 1 gallon bottle of shampoo might not be the form a fancy club takes, but it would solve the problem. regardless, Tom's answer feels the closest we've come so far to an elegant solution because it only means we buy a different size bottle.

    But there is a better solution. keep brainstorming with me?

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  • Make the bottles unusable outside of the gym.
    change the cap?
    remove the cap? (pretty hard to throw it in the bag then!)
    tether it to the shelf (like a bank pen)

    • Brandon found the solution they came up with. (there maybe be others more elegant, but removing the cap was the most elegant solution they came up with. It completely eliminated the stealing, didn't cost a penny more, and didn't take any more manpower.

      I'll be writing my next post based on the comments. But I want to continue the conversation.
      What are your thoughts about the solution of removing the cap?
      Any thoughts on the process of getting to that solution? or what would have happened if we'd gone with our first takes?

      Way to go Brandon!

  • adamwormann

    Doesn't the water get into the shampoo then? Don't people spill it more and make it wind up costing more money? Who are we going to hire to take all the caps off?

    Sorry, I think if we were going to wind up drawing church parallels, I had to include the people complaining about why something different won't work and that we've never done it that way before :-)

    Seriously, I think one of the ways that solution comes it by staying on track (i.e. here is our goal [no new cost, etc.], let's stick to that). by not going outside the parameters, but still thinking outside the box, if that makes sense, you get to a good solution.

    You also set a time frame to come up with a solution, and don't come to a conclusion before that, eliminating tendency to just go for a quick answer, without going through all options.

    (those are my quick thoughts)

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