Articles

Life is a waiting game!

In Productivity culture, Productivity mindset, UK productivity on December 1, 2010 by Tim Aikens

Whether at work or play, we all spend a remarkable amount of time waiting for something or someone.  This creates ‘dead time’.  Think of a few examples. At home, waiting for the kettle to boil, waiting for the pasta to finish cooking, hanging around because the kids are not ready despite countless exhortations that you needed to leave at 10:00 a.m. sharp . . . . and so on!  Then at work we see that same thing.  Waiting for a large document to print, waiting in a meeting for someone important to turn up (have you ever calculated the cost of waiting for a meeting to start, it can be a lot of money).  When drilling an oil well they call it NPT – Non Productive Time.  With some oil rigs costing around $1 million a day you can understand  why they are keen to minimise  NPT.  Surprisingly there are not too many business areas where there is a significant focus on NPT.  Manufacturing industries are often keen on NPT.  The capital invested and lost production usually means a lot of lost revenue. But what about service industries or the public sector?

Many organisations are aware of the cost of having to wait. GP practices do not like it if you turn up late or not at all. It costs them money.  But what about the opposite?  How much money is wasted because you go into your GP appointment and are kept waiting 20 minutes or your customer keeps you waiting half an hour?  Is this something we should live with as part of the cost of doing business or should we seek to do something?

I believe we both can and  need to do something.  In an earlier blog I wrote about a ‘culture of productivity’ and this is a related issue.  In a consulting company I used to work for we had a very bad meeting culture.  They often started late, took far too long and the outcomes were often poor.  After introducing and enforcing a few simple rules things changed very quickly.  Meetings started at the appointed time – regardless of whether the boss turned up, there was an agenda and they finished on time. People soon learned to be on time and have an agenda!  It saved a lot of money and productivity improved.  That is one simple example.

Another change that needs to happen is the mindset about waiting.  Two key things need to change.  Firstly how can you avoid the waiting.  The meeting example above is one way of tackling a problem.  Thinking about what you need to do and when is actually important, but people spend little time on it.  The key is often planning!  You see this on construction sites. Four men standing around a hole in the ground for 30 minutes because the welder has not turned up – well plan ahead.  In some cases you cannot avoid the wait. You have a big print job.  You don’t need to stand over the printer whilst all 30 copies of 60 pages print. Make a coffee (it saves time later) or do an overnight print.  The overall point is to plan your time and make sure everyone in the organisation plans theirs.  One of my biggest frustrations is the London tube.  When they are refurbishing an escalator, it is naturally closed and boarded off, but frequently there is nothing happening! Why the wait, why no activity?  Better planning would save much of the time.  In a petrochemical plant a similar shutdown is planned to the smallest detail so there is no waiting time.

Waiting time costs money – its best avoided!

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