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The Extremely Scenic Route

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Here’s a word problem for you: a train filled with 450 passengers was scheduled to leave at 2:15PM on Monday, but gets stuck in Chicago’s Union Station until 1:22PM on Tuesday. Those on board had no access to food, water or reliable restrooms. What happened?

This question might bring back memories of school, but it should really make you think about business process improvement. And in fact, it really happened. You can read about the failure on The Consumerist.

Amtrak Train

© Flickr user pfsullivan_1056

According to these sources, a chorus of official excuses unfolded over the 24-hour period as the ticket-holders waited for the train to depart. With no specific planned departure time and freezing temperatures in the station, many passengers slept on the floors of the crowded train carriages.

The actions of Amtrak are inexcusable. Delays are an obvious reality of rail systems, so management should have a clear and comprehensive policy about how to take care of passengers in the event that foul weather, technical problems, labor issues or other challenges adversely impact planned departure times. Processes must be designed to handle exceptions, with the emphasis on situations that are easy to predict and have the greatest impact on stakeholders.

If your company or non-profit deals with customers, clients, vendors or employees who have the potential to become angry, you should ensure that your workflow takes common issues into account. Contact the process improvement experts to assist your institution. We help companies design systems for business which allows them to operate smoothly during both normal times and anticipated periods of stress.

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