#7 Act to Advance

by | May 20, 2008 | Blog | 0 comments

Act to advance. Three words and 14 characters, well within my Twitter 140-character limit. That’s my new marching order for myself and ideally for everyone else I work with.

What’s this all about? Making sure you’re not wasting time, which is one of the tenets of LEAN. Wasting time is a huge problem, especially for knowledge workers. When time is all we have, as the great, late philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, it’s easy to waste.

The three major time wasters I’m experiencing these days are people:
1. Answering their cell phones and immediately telling you, “Sorry, but I can’t talk now.” Well, why did you bother answering the phone?!?! Just let the call go into voicemail so I can leave you a concise, coherent message and you can get back to me via phone, text, IM, e-mail, face-to-face, or whatever. Instead we both waste time with the aborted call. Plus, chances are you may not remember to call back.
2. Telling you the old cliché “Let’s do lunch.” If you really want to get together, don’t just say “Let’s get together.” Instead, propose three times that work for you for lunch, coffee or whatever. Last week, I invited a colleague to an event that I thought she’d be interested in. She immediately e-mailed me back saying she couldn’t go, but we needed to get together for lunch. I then saw a dense paragraph in which she gave me an almost hour-by-hour itinerary of her schedule for the next two to three weeks, without specifying when she’d be available for any lunch or coffee breaks. (To her credit, she didn’t bother including her planned bathroom breaks.) Do I really want to work my way through her schedule to find a time that works for her, and then compare that to my calendar? I don’t think so. I might be willing if she were a client who was paying me for this work, but not someone for whom I’ve done more than my fair share of favors.
3. Complaining about being short of time yet not using their time well. For example, someone I know has been short-circuiting a process. She jumps the gun and takes time to type up comments from feedback forms rather than have the assigned individual do it as part of the data step. (This step involves tabulating the quantitative results and the qualitative comments.) She wastes even more time sharing the comments with her superiors as is, without responding to any of the feedback, without adding any commentary, or without suggesting that they divvy up the comments and questions and discuss them. She’s violating a prime principle of LEAN in that she’s not taking the time to add any value to the step. I wouldn’t be so cranky except that she’s says she’s upset that she has no time for her real job. Well, typing up these comments isn’t her real job.
We’re all time-starved these days. So try to act and add value, as in “Act and Advance” rather than just letting time pass you by. If you want to waste your time, that’s your personal decision. Be careful about wasting others’ time though. If I’m going to join you in wasting time, I at least want to enjoy the experience. And I don’t think I’m alone.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *