Regular readers may recall that last July a combination of several factors drove me to take a last minute vacation to Maui. Actually not quite last minute… I planned it about 24 hours in advance. Coincidentally it was at that time that I introduced co-author Craig Woll, along with Paris Hilton and Oprah.
Craig has generously written several posts this past week while I’ve been buried in a myriad of operational, customer, pricing, and personal issues. So buried that when my head resurfaced yesterday it was literally spinning and simply could not focus. Not a good sign. Since my wife had just left for a 9-day medical relief mission to Nicaragua, I thought perhaps I should go somewhere for a few days of R&R. So I started looking… and found a decent deal on airfare, hotel, and car.
Leaving in two hours.
Which meant I had an hour to pack and get to the airport… a half hour drive away. A half hour. Could it be done? Well, think about what needs to be packed for five days at a hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii. Uh… swimsuit, shorts, and a few shirts. Five minutes later I was done, leaving time to arrange for someone to give the cat her insulin shots, stop the paper, and shoot a quick email to some friends and co-workers. Seven hours later, including a connection in SFO, I was landing in Kona. Eight hours after thinking perhaps I needed to go somewhere, I was feeling the warm sand between my white toes.
I don’t know about you, but to me there is something special about the ocean, and especially an ocean that surrounds an island, and especially a Pacific island. Somehow it immediately sucks the stress out of me, recalibrates me, and helps me regain my true north. It’s as if the ocean is saying "even when you think life sucks, life definitely does not suck, so get over it." Or perhaps it’s the smell of ginger and hibiscus, the sound of the wind through the palms and the gentle waves on the beach, or most likely a couple of unusually strong margaritas. Now you understand this meandering post. You ain’t seen nothing yet…
But let me take a lame stab at something that might be of at least oblique interest to our readers. Just in time. We know the value that JIT creates for lean manufacturing operations and many other aspects of the extended lean enterprise. Less inventory, less risk of error, quick response to customer demand.
Is there an analogous value in "just in time vacations?" I propose there is. From a mental standpoint, there is something liberating and exhilarating with a last minute vacation. Especially when it is truly last minute, and in a few hours you are literally on the other side of the globe. You can’t spend weeks agonizing and over-planning what to wear and what to take. You are forced to think very quickly and methodically. Waste is not created. Less is taken instead of more, knowing that if you really need it you can buy it (albeit for a rather inflated price).
Most of us have witnessed a similar principle in manufacturing. Not "traditional" planned JIT, but unexpected "forced" JIT. The JIT that happens when your most important customer calls and desperately needs you to make some product and ship it… today. Not after the three weeks of your standard lead time, which you are already proud of because it is down from nine weeks only a year ago.
And since they are your most important customer, you do it. Somehow you move mountains and part seas. There may be a few bodies along the side of the road, but you get the product out and your company has just created even more value from the perspective of the customer. Most of us have been there, done that. But how many of us take a time out afterwards to learn instead of just to recover? Learn how we can do one day turns each and every day, to every customer? Imagine the value that could create. I know a company that did that, began charging double for one day turns, and a year later over 60% of their business is quick turn. That’s a chunk ‘o change straight to the bottom line.
But wait a minute… I’m supposed to be on vacation. Time for another margarita.