Designing the Work

Chase left our conversation abruptly. Across the plant floor, he had spotted a problem and rushed to make a correction. He was apologetic on his return. “Sorry, but this is why I called you today. I feel like a two armed octopus. There are eight things that need to happen, but I can only work on two problems at a time. Things get out of control about fifteen minutes into the day. And they never stop. At the end of the day, I look at my boss’ list of projects and the important things never seem to get worked on. There is always a crisis.”

“Not really,” I said. “To me, your system is working exactly the way it is designed to work.”

Chase was puzzled. “What do you mean? It’s not working at all.”

“No, it is working exactly the way it is designed to work. The design of your day’s work is to drink coffee for the first fifteen minutes, then run around the floor solving urgent problems. At the end of each day, you check the list to make sure you didn’t do anything important.”

I paused. “Not a bad design. How’s that working for you?” Chase didn’t like what he was hearing.

“If you want to change your day, you have to change your design for the day. I see about four major design changes you might want to consider, but let’s start with just one. Don’t let anyone work during the first fifteen minutes of the day. Instead have a huddle meeting around the boss’ list of important projects. That one design change will be a good start.”

How is your day designed?

3 thoughts on “Designing the Work

  1. Michael Cardus

    Tom good advice and I could see many manager and MOR not accepting this idea. That 15 minutes of ‘down time’ multiplied by 10-15 men equals 4-6 hours of lost production time.
    Instead of actually looking at their system and realizing that the scrambling and fire fighting is more detrimental, and the 15 minute huddle can increase output.

    Reply
  2. Ghost of Christmas Future

    … so the boss gives you a list of things to do and the solution is to drag all your employees in to look at it. I see a man being replaced by a task listed pin to a cork board in the break room in the very near future.

    Reply

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