A Better Way To Work TimeBack Management

About Dan Markovitz

Dan Markovitz is the founder and president of TimeBack Management. Prior to founding his own firm, Mr. Markovitz held management positions at Sierra Designs, Adidas, CNET and Asics Tiger. Learn More...

Leveling; smoothing out the flow; e.g., doing two performance evaluations a day for 3 weeks, rather than ten a day for three days -- and then needing to take a vacation because you're so burned out.
Overburdening people, process, or equipment; e.g., people working 100 hour weeks for months on end -- come to think of it, like most lawyers and accountants.
Uneveness or variability; e.g., leaving work at the normal time on Thursday, but having to stay at the office till midnight on Friday because the boss finally got around to giving you that project...at 4:30pm.
Waste; activities that your customer doesn't value and doesn't want to pay for; e.g., billing your customer for the really expensive 10am FedEx delivery because you didn't finish the document on time.

TIMEBACK BLOG Syndicate content

Will Smith Gets Lean.

Posted December 9, 2007 @ 11:15 PM

Tim Walker, over at the Business Insight Zone, just blogged about Will Smith and his astonishing work ethic. Tim cites a quote from Smith in a 60 Minutes interview:

“I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. I’ve viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening, work ethic. You know, while the other guy’s sleeping? I’m working. While the other guy’s eatin’? I’m working. While the other guy’s making love, I mean, I’m making love, too. But I’m working really hard at it,” he tells Kroft, laughing.

As far as I know, Will Smith doesn't know anything about lean. However, he clearly understands the notion of continuous improvement. Perhaps even more importantly, he demonstrates a disciplined approach towards making that improvement. Tim puts it nicely when he writes that

many expert practitioners display only a modicum of talent, but virtually all expert practitioners have work routines characterized by incessant practice — and not just practice, but deliberate practice that is designed to improve their skills constantly.

Tim is talking about individuals here, but he could just have easily been talking about Toyota and the company-wide ethos of lean. "Routines." "Incessant and deliberate practice." "Improve skills." These are all hallmarks of the Toyota production system and the people within it.

I know that when you're closing the books for this quarter, or managing a call center, or handling traffic for your client's ad campaign, it's hard to think about developing a "sickening work ethic." Let's face it: most of corporate America isn't built to inspire greatness in people. Hell, you're lucky if you can stomach (giving or receiving) this year's performance review, much less the pile of work your boss dropped on your desk at 4pm this afternoon.

But working on a Toyota assembly line ain't exactly a day at the beach either. Yet there's an understanding -- and an expectation -- that those guys are going to figure out ways to do their jobs better today than yesterday. There's a persistent, relentless pursuit of improvement in the process of building cars.

So if the guys tightening the bolts holding the rearview mirror can dedicate themselves to figuring out how to do that job better, with just a little less waste, why not you? Why can't you dedicate yourself to figuring out how to handle those damn emails? Why can't you create a system that will enable you to find the information you need without wasting time looking for it? Why can't you try a new way of managing all your commitments, promises, and to-do's so that stuff doesn't fall through the cracks?

Will Smith makes about $20 million per movie, and he's totally dedicated to improvement. So is the guy working the Toyota assembly line, and he's not making quite that much.

What about you?

Thanks for the kind words,

Thanks for the kind words, Dan. Over the weekend I read a couple more things that feed into what you're talking about here: (1) the original 1993 "deliberate practice" journal article by Anders Ericsson and his colleagues, which spells out the realities of deliberate practice in great detail; and (2) the book FINDING FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which follows on his psychology blockbuster FLOW. In that book, M.C. talks about how "autotelic" personalities -- e.g. Linus Pauling -- come to appreciate the challenges and level of interest that's inherent in potentially ANYTHING we work on. Your comment about the guy bolting on the rearview mirror fits very well with that.

Look for more on this at the BIZ blog soon.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

  Captcha Image: you will need to recognize the text in it.
Please type in the letters/numbers that are shown in the image above.