Behold the power of the list!
Perhaps it is the linear-thinking engineer in me or else I just do a poor job of unstructured juggling, but I have always loved lists. I keep to-do lists for all kinds of activities in the notebook I carry wherever I go, and even make lists of how to make lists work better. But I always fall back to two primary methods… the free form lists in my notebook… a simple affair with just blank unruled pages, and the wall full of Post-It notes in my office. The Post-It note method lets me rearrange priorities, assign categories, and even delegate in a very visible manner. I have never been able to make electronic organizers work efficiently enough to replace my handwritten scribbles.
Lists provide focus, accountability, and reward. Instead of spending time (waste!) continually trying to organize activities in my head, I can simply march down a list. I know what still has to be done, and I check something off when it is finally complete.
Hoshin kanri, policy deployment, and strategic planning in effect create lists. Goal-setting creates lists. Activity delegation creates lists. But it can admittedly go overboard… how many of us have worked in organizations that require personal and departmental goals that are several pages long? In those cases you may spend more time managing the list than some activities take to begin with. Formal annual project goals for my department managers are never more than five items long. One of the reasons I hire and pay top-notch managers is so they can manage their own areas in their own effective ways, not to manage my lists.
Most of you know that I am a little overly lean-centric, and am fascinated by how lean can apply to other areas of life such as in the home. Although most of us use grocery lists, the application of lists to other areas sometimes meets resistance. I’m not sure why, but maybe that’s part of the problem… maybe I am a little over the top. Today I’m helping my mother in-law with some chores. Before I arrived I asked for a list of what needed to be done so I could prioritize and prepare. The response I got was "oh that’s right… guys like lists." Really? Perhaps this explains why I can accomplish a set of chores in a short amount of time… although my wife would counter that she simply takes the time to do a more thorough job.
In reality she is probably somewhat correct… but that may be due to the reward of lists… the joy of checking something off as complete without a quality inspection. My wife and I have radically different cleaning methods… in true one piece flow sensibility I start and finish discrete projects. She works on a multitude of cleaning projects at once… inevitably leading to a new project on my list: rounding up and putting away the cleaning supplies left in each room.
Which somehow always includes each individual attachment of the vacuum being in a separate room… what we now affectionately call our "amazing exploding vacuum."