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Time Management

Time management is the act of consciously planning out how one spends the hours and minutes of a day. For structured, repetitive production work, most people tend to be fairly good at managing their time. When the demand is not so consistent, though, people tend to squander a lot more of this precious resource.

Time management has two basic aspects to it. The first is that you have to be selective in what you do. The second lies in being efficient and more importantly, effective in how you do things.

While there are volumes upon volumes of information about time management available to you, there are a few specific ways it relates to your continuous improvement efforts.

  1. Lean organizations require structured processes. Frontline operators are used to having a significant portion of their day arranged for them. More senior members of the team and professionals such as engineers or marketing experts, however, are used to a great deal more flexibility in how they use their time. As the company becomes Leaner, the recurring demands on its leadership team (i.e. operations reviews, gemba walks, and daily standup meetings) reduces the amount of unscheduled time. Leaders must be better at managing what they do with it.
  2. Most people do not recognize the size of the gap between how they think they should spend their time and how they actually do use the hours of their workday. Enlighten people with a short exercise. Ask them to allocate how they should spend their time. Let them choose what they are doing, as in developing team members, working on strategy, doing kaizen activity, etc. Then have them track what they actually do for a few days. For most people it is eye-opening how far off they are from what they want to be doing.
  3. One of the biggest issues with time management is confusing important and urgent. For people who are poor at controlling their schedules, urgency trumps most activity. Those that are more proactive, though, are able to say no to the little things that distract them from accomplishing their goals.
  4. Interruptions wreak havoc on time management. The cost is not only of the actual time spent on the disturbance. There is also a significant loss of productivity associated with having to stop and start the planned task. Basically this means that a 10 minute interruption costs you the 10 minutes to deal with the issue, plus 5 or 10 minutes to get back into your original work.

Over time, continuous improvement cultures have a very positive impact on time management. The main reason for this is that the environment changes from one of firefighting to one of proactive, preventative problem-solving.

There is also a great benefit to using structured problem-solving tools. For example, countermeasure sheets and A3 reports both speed up the improvement process. Communication is much more efficient and effective. Even things like 5S help significantly. Tasks take much less time when tools and other resources are easy to find.


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