Systems: operations and day-to-day life collide!

“To understand Toyota’s success, you have to unravel the paradox – you have to see that the rigid specification is the very thing that makes the flexibility and creativity possible.” – Spear and Bowen, “Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System” 1999

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks between midterms, class projects, wedding planning, training, and career planning. Phew! To navigate my packed schedule, I have always been all about systems and efficiency… sometimes to a fault! Adam tends to ride the wave and take things as they come… which I am getting better at! But when I reference my electronics station (chargers, Garmin watch, etc.), my laundry process, or my scheduling tactics, Adam often sounds the alarm: “SYSTEMSSSS!” His comment is that my iCal looks like a tie-dye t-shirt! (Exhibit A, below)

 Snapshot of my iCal

Snapshot of my iCal

But I find that having structured processes, checklists, operational systems (and an up-to-date cal!) allow me to free up space in my mind to think creatively, focus on the task at hand and – ultimately - be more flexible and agile on a day-to-day basis. So when the quote above popped up on a slide in my Ops class recently, it spoke to me. People often remark how I’m able to balance demands in multiple arenas and execute on all fronts… and I attribute that to the systems I’ve developed (as well as discipline, work ethic, and time management skillz). So this quote inspired me to share one of my strategies for GETTING IT DONE!

The core of this strategy? Operations - the repeated processes that firms or individuals do to create, deliver, and capture value. Although typically thought of in conjunction with manufacturing and firms like Toyota, basic principles of operations can be found in everything we do! (ok, ok, I know – lame – but true!) Think about your day – how many repeated processes do you undertake on a daily basis? During those crazy days when you’re running between the office, the gym, errands, etc., ever wonder where the time goes? Wish you could get that schedule under control? Take action! -- Even the smallest increase in efficiency, the slightest bits of structure, can add up and help you stay on top of things!

While processes may seem like common sense, my work in my Ops and Entrepreneurship classes this term have showed me the benefit in breaking even the simplest looking processes down step by step. This allows us to iterate and develop a disciplined approach to improvement (which is what I’m looking to achieve in everything I do!).

So, without further ado, four simple steps to improving a process in your life (from key professional tasks down to your morning post-workout shower/work prep process):

  1. Observe – What are the current steps in the system at hand? Map it out! Make observations as you walk through your process: Are there common errors? Steps that often pose problems for you? How long does it take to complete each test?
  2. Diagnose – Once you have made those observations, take time to analyze what are the causes for any errors you noticed? Problems you encountered?
  3. Fix – What steps can you adjust to address your diagnosis?
  4. Measure – Have there been improvements? Make sure to pick no more than three key metrics (because I wouldn’t be a Boothie if I didn’t bring data into the mix!) to help you figure out whether your “fixes” are really helping?

Now, obviously it’s crazy to monitor everything you do and time your life out to the second – who does that?! But I find that keeping the above framework in mind helps me to streamline, prioritize, and simplify my life when things get crazy. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!