The Mad Housers


We've received some interesting emails lately, and I thought the responses might make for interesting blog posts. One volunteer wrote in recently offering several observations:

  • Frequently, it seems like volunteers stand around a lot waiting for things to happen. Perhaps we could split into smaller teams to work on separate things...?
  • Second, oftentimes panel loading seems chaotic, and items have been left behind at the warehouse. Checklists...?
  • Third, why aren't we soliciting for volunteers more aggressively?
All good questions. Here's my somewhat edited response:

Yes, there's definitely an art to splitting up tasks to keep everyone engaged.

For instance, we could paint the panels before we leave the warehouse, but in general we don't. Why? Because out in the field, there's usually a period where, in terms of construction, only one or two people can be building. Instead of having folks standing around, it's better to leave off the painting at the warehouse so that folks can paint in the field, even if that seems to take more time in the field.

The problem is, you generally get to be a build leader by knowing how to build a shelter, but that winds up being only part of the skillset of directing a team to build a shelter. Hell, I've been building huts for 15 years and I still sometimes wind up having folks idling. In general, we try to keep everyone occupied, but sometimes we slip up, and sometimes circumstances wind up making it impossible. But we can't have new build leaders become good build leaders until they're done, sadly, being not-so-good build leaders.

In terms of the loading situation - we are now implementing checklists, so that's better, but the Board realizes that this is right now one of the biggest bottlenecks that we have at a build. We're setting a shoot-for-the-moon goal of having our load time for a shelter deploy thinned down to 15 minutes. That's going to require some high organization and out-of-the-box thinking, especially for circumstances where half the team doesn't know their way around the warehouse. But even if it only goes to 20 minutes, that'll still be a vast improvement.

And in terms of getting new recruits... well, there's something big in the works. Watch this space!

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