Best Laid Plans...
Planning is fine. Adjusting is inevitable.
Hey, my name is Tristan Hood and I love helping leaders and teams find new and better ways of managing work. I believe continual, organic change is far superior to large transformation, unless absolutely necessary of course. As such, I created this blog with the intent to share my experiences, wins, and losses. In today’s tidbit, I relate a story a friend of mine told me about the dangers of pre-work.
Because I dislike wasting my time, I am staunchly protective of it. There is nothing more infuriating to me than wasted work. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it's one of the few things that truly irritates me. This issue has never been more relevant than in today's world of quiet quitting, where people are starting to match effort with expectations. But that’s a different conversation.
In this Tidbit, I want to focus on how the idea of Lean and Just In Time has helped me reduce waste and frustration.
The Screws & Washers
Healthy humans crave purpose and meaning. We love to know when something we have done contributed in some way. For me, that means the article I wrote somehow made someone's life better or helped them reach closer to their full potential.
How about an example?
My good friend and mentor, Dustin Corey, was telling me a story about working with his five year old son, Hudson. They were working on a project that required mounting electronics. As part of the work, Hudson's job was to prepare the screw for mounting by adding a lock washer and regular washer. It's okay if none of that made sense, I have a nifty illustration that will help it make sense.
They had a bag full of screws and washers and, while Dustin was preparing the electronic device for mounting, Hudson decided it would make sense to get ahead of his dad by preparing as many screws as he could. In the time it took Dustin to do his work, Hudson had put a washer on each one of the screws in the bag. They only needed three screws for the job, however, Hudson had put together about 20 screws. You may be thinking, "Tristan, that's no big deal." You're right, but it illustrates the dangers of pre-work.
I've often been bad about this very thing. "If I just get them all started, what's the worst that could happen?" After all, the screws are ready for future work. But, the truth is they aren't. They all went back in the back where, until the next project, those washers will most likely fall off. That work will need to be done again. Worst case, they never get used and that work was just wasted in general. Either way, the chances the value of that work will never be realized is very high.
A Teaching Plan Snafu
My wife was telling me a story about her first year as a teacher. She was creating a plan for the class and, in her Hudson like exuberance, she planned the the lessons for every week for the entire school year. What an excellent idea, right? She had a plan! Two weeks into the school year the flu hit. Her plan was now off by a week. A month later, some of the students took longer to understand a concept than she anticipated. Another day off track. Halfway through the year, her plan looked nothing like the one she created.
Obviously all was not lost. Planning and doing some prep work are not inherently wrong. In fact, my wife still plans the higher level strategy of what she wants to accomplish for the year of teach, but she only plans out the next two weeks of work. I love this! It's the very essence of what I coach around Lean and Just in Time: The idea that you would give yourself options while delaying, until the last responsible moment, any decisions or work. This one mindset has saved me from hours of lost or wasted work.
Land the plane
I will leave you with a tip using Hudson's experience. You may not be able to prepare, "one screw at a time," but you could intentionally reduce the amount of pre-work, like my wife did. Instead of prepping the entire year’s school work, try reducing it to a few months, or a few weeks. I'm not advocating for "no planning." I just want you to understand, in the words of Mike Tyson,
“Everybody has plans until they get hit for the first time”
With that in mind, commit to reducing the amount of up front work or planning until you get to a healthy rhythm. Doing so will organically begin to lower the cost of lost or redoing work.