Tim Ferriss, author of one of my favorite books, bestselling The Four Hour Workweek, is really starting to dive into the lean manufacturing world. Perhaps because the productivity aspects of lean dovetail perfectly with the concepts he promotes in his book. Only a couple weeks ago we told you how he was thinking about push vs. pull processes. Now lean becomes part of his recent post on results-oriented productivity improvements.
First he tackles one of my favorite topics for a good rant: the ability of mis-placed automation to hide waste.
The first rule of any [technology used in a] business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.
The underlying process needs to be made efficient, perhaps via the implementation of lean tools, before technology and automation is used to further improve productivity. Note that I did NOT say that automation is evil! I am saying it needs to be applied after the underlying process is optimized. Tim then quotes directly from his book, applying that principle to people:
Principle number one: refine rules and processes before adding people. Using people to leverage a refined process multiplies production; using people as a solution to a poor process multiplies problems.
Which is also why people are worth far more than the hourly "cost" of a pair of hands. Their knowledge, creativity, and experience can multiply the value of underlying efficiency. The opposite is also true, as he conveys using the potential blackhole of email:
This applies as much to excessive CC’ing people on personal e-mail as it does to large-scale operations.
Which then takes him into the wonderful world of lean.
If the processes are wasteful (inefficient), performance will decrease when you attempt to scale. The more people involved, the more severe the decrease. If the processes–including prioritization and workflow optimization–are lean (efficient), performance will increase. Combined with other people following the same lean processes, performance can increase in an exponential vs. linear fashion.
And to augment the apparent confluence of Tim and I thinking exactly the same way, he then takes on the paradigm change I wrote about only last Friday: the evolving workweek and focusing on results.
Most important, just as with Best Buy, where 24-year old Cali Ressler started the ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) experiment, huge changes can be initiated from the bottom up. It just takes some lateral thinking and a willingness to test small.
There is a great photo of a whiteboard at a tech company in Silicon Valley, where engineers are using some of his concepts with regards to email, communication… and work. On the photo you’ll see a reference to a core lean concept: "Maximize single tasking".
Tim’s post concludes with some tools, and case studies, on implementing 4HWW concepts in the corporate environment. Well worth the read, as is his book.