We’re pleased to have David Kasprzak as a guest writer today. In his article, he explains the concept of Waste, as understood in Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System, but he takes it further by explaining the concept of waste within the context of Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE).
As a sneak peak, would you agree or disagree with the maxim:
For Many, Just Showing Up to Work is Waste.
Read more about David after the article.
To most workers, Lean initiatives (and other improvement efforts) suffer from a critical flaw – that you are supposed to engage in them only once you get to work. What isn’t addressed is that a lot of waste might come from just showing up.
What if, instead of attendance, we focused only on the results? What if where you work was irrelevant as long as the work got done? What if meetings were optional, hours were idiosyncratic and people were allowed to manage their effort, to be measured just on the results? What if we didn’t need to be baby-sat 40 hours a week? What if we trusted people to do their assigned tasks and just got out of the way?
That sounds like a lot of time spent on finding ways to keep people “utilized” would end. Or, in other words, a lot of waste eliminated and the ultimate in respect for people achieved – so much so that people are respected to the point of being trusted.
Enter ROWE, the Results-Only-Work-Environment developed at Best Buy corporate Headquarters in Minneapolis.
The ROWE environment demands a relentless focus on one thing: The work. What else does your customer require? Do you need to be in the office at 9:15? What is the difference between 9:15 and 8:55 anyway – in terms of results? Does your customer value your physical presence, or the outputs you generate? Does your act of taking up space in a specific location add value?
Usually, it does not.
So, if value isn’t created by your presence in a specific location, for a specific duration, then you can choose to create value from anywhere, at any time, right? That’s what the creators of ROWE came to understand – value is independent of location. Value creation is also completely independent of time. In a ROWE, time spent working is irrelevant. It simply doesn’t matter how long you work, or how short. It’s just about getting the work done. Or, in other words, it’s about the value you produce – not the time you spend in producing it.
ROWE focuses on the elimination of Sludge – the negative attitudes that keep people justifying, rationalizing and accepting each others’ (and their own) judgments of others based on the time they are putting in, and where they do it. Or, in other word, “Waste” – time spent doing an activity that no one wants – which includes gossip and finger-pointing that burns up time and energy and causes work to become a burdensome, panicked, boring chore to be survived rather than enjoyed.
The parallels with waste, value, and the elimination of Muri in the work environment, all familiar concepts to Lean thinkers, are clear. It makes me wonder if it’s time to re-think what waste and value mean, and to develop an understanding of how the way we conceive of work is woven into the lives of the people doing the work, too. After all, shouldn’t work be something you do, not someplace you go?
About David Kasprzak
In order to create a forum for “Discussing management excellence and the pursuit of work and life synthesis,” David created the My Flexible Pencil blog. On his blog, David addresses both workplace and family situations by applying ideas derived from Lean, Project Management, Organizational Behavior and his Master’s-Level education in Political Science and Business Administration. He has authored guest posts for several lean and project management blogs, frequently contributes to Linked In Q&A and Discussion forums, and his comments on the Harvard Business Review article “Lean for Knowledge Work” will be published in the magazine’s December print edition.
While working as a cost & schedule analyst for over 10 years in the Defense and Government industry for organizations such as the DEA, CSC, BAE Systems, and Raytheon, David realized that the sources of either good or poor performance usually rested in the habits, practices and mindsets of both the leadership and the led. As a result, he turned his attention away from a strict focus on metrics and towards the “people side” of improvement. This shift in focus began his journey towards developing a deeper understanding of the relationship between personal enjoyment and organizational success
His vision is for a new paradigm of work to become the norm, in order to bring a sense of humanity to the workplace and make personal fulfillment the means to profitability, rather than something that gets in its way. Currently, he continues to work in program controls while authoring his blog and attempting to create his own work/life synthesis.
David lives near Nashua, NH with his wife and 2 sons. He can be contacted via email at email@example.com.