First Out, Then Back as a novel throughput model

This morning Ari Meisel and I traded emails on a design topic from an uncommon point-of-origin. We’d originally connected through his post on Entrepreneur’s week. In process flow, there are two main divisions: FIFO, or first-in, first-out and LIFO, last-in, first-out. FIFO applies when a pipe is open on both ends,

First In, First Out

while LIFO applies when one end is capped and the product (or in this case, the people) have to use the entry as the exit.

Last In, First Out

On to the point-of-origin. At the daily Mass chapel of my family heritage parish in Bastrop, the architect clearly wasn’t Catholic, or at least not a daily communicant. (Why? Because the design shows no one ever “walked through the flow.”) The center aisle is just wide enough for two people abreast, meaning there is no place for someone to go after receiving Communion from the priest. This is made worse by the fact that the brick walls are only inches from the outer edges of the pews, so people don’t have that option either.

Over time what has spontaneously evolved strikes me as remarkable, so much so that I’ve written an entire blog post about it! Instead of LIFO, which would bunch people up trying to re-enter the pew; or FIFO, which is impossible because the pews aren’t open on both ends, we have FOTB: first out then back.

First Out, Then Back

Typically the right side of the chapel goes first with the first person in the last row stepping out and back to accommodate each person to the right of them stepping out and back until the last person in the last pew is now first in line. These folks receive the Host, then turn and proceed back to the last pew in the order that will allow them to naturally enter the pew without disruption. This out-wait-go proceeds pew-by-pew to the front then starts again on the left side in mirror image, the people stepping out and back to accommodate the person to their left. It’s an amazing, intriguingly graceful (pun intended) adaptation to a problem that would’ve been so easy to solve – if the architect had followed Ari’s insight to learn the “flow” of what was going to be in the space.

What’s your latest idea on graceful adaptations to poorly designed spaces? Good ideas come from anywhere, so let’s discuss your ideas in the comments.

Carpe Diem!

Matt

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