Collaboration has progressed from a buzzword to an article of faith in today’s organisations. Books talk about how to do it better and tools claim to make it ever easier to share ideas and plan projects. But what task are you collaborating on?
Something so simple, and yet something so often neglected—how to properly define a task. If you want to markedly improve productivity without anything other than the content of your own mind, it will pay to pay attention to the proper definition of a task.(more…)
I had occasion recently to reflect on the fact that it is now more than twenty years since I first read Peter Senge’s seminal book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of The Learning Organisation. All those years ago, I was at the National Productivity Institute in Pretoria looking for a breakthrough in work management.
The refrigeration contracting company I led was staring at a completely oversubscribed order book and we had to find a more productive way to do our work. The story began with them giving me in one hand a copy of Eli Goldratt’s The Goal, and in the other, a copy of The Fifth Discipline. (more…)
It pays to stand on the shoulders of giants, those who have come before and exposed eternal truths. You get to see further, you have a reference point to test your own understanding and insight and it gives you the confidence to continue, even when you are not sure of the ground you’re standing on. Their work is the compass you pull from your pocket when you’re not sure which direction to take.
Dr W Edwards Deming was a giant amongst the giants. He studied electrical engineering at undergraduate level, and mathematics and physics as a postgraduate. He worked as a statistician in the US Department of Agriculture and was a leader in the post-war reindustrialisation of Japan. Lean, Six Sigma and TOC all owe Dr Deming an enormous debt.(more…)
One of my all-time favourite authors, Joseph Campbell, when asked for a definition of mythology, gave the devastatingly simple response: ‘Other people’s religion’. He did go on to talk to the three basic functions of myth: to achieve psychological reconciliation with consciousness, life and death; to bind an individual into society’s norms; and to learn how to lead a good life.(more…)
Think of a production system and you’ll probably conjure up some kind of assembly line. Whether you imagine humans or machines doing the work, this mental model feels wedded to manufacturing. It needn’t be—production principles are universal.
An airline’s check-in desk is part of a production line. So is the hospital’s procedure for admitting patients. Running scripts in software development is production. As is the sales pipeline that gets software to market. Insurance claims and loan applications? Production systems. And the barista in the café offers a vivid everyday production system—so obvious we almost don’t see it as such.
The real cost of any decision is what you forego by making that choice. In economics, the cost of a decision based on the cost of the next best option is called the opportunity cost. At its most poetic, Henry David Thoreau put it thus: ‘the price of anything is the amount of life you pay for it’.
At first blush that may seem a little extreme, but it is a truth. We are all finite beings and will one day run out of life. Time really is the ultimate constraint. If we had an infinite amount of time, we could do everything we desired and have time left over to enjoy it all. (more…)