By Jon Miller | Post Date: September 28, 2006 11:23 PM | Comments: 0
The September 28th post on the VerySimple Dev Blog offers a solution to one particular time waster in the office: visiting the Digg.com website. Turning e-mail or your cell phone off to avoid interruptions is relatively easy. Not surfing the internet during office hours can be harder, and the batch file this blogger created is a good example of pokayoke (error proofing) through software code, as it blocks you from visiting certain websites during certain hours (work hours) of the day.
I suspect that surfing the internet aimlessly or in search of amusement and distraction from work is a colossal source of wasted time in the developed world. People who work in the office or at computers with internet connections have been given a very powerful tool to do their work. This tool can also be used to troll the internet for interesting information. It is a double-edged sword.
How is using the internet to waste time any different from a factory worker using a CNC machine to machine bits of metal for their personal projects during work hours? People don't expect to flip on a television at their desk and watch a show for 30 minutes, but don't hesitate to watch videos online or read the news.
One of the characteristics of Lean systems is that visual, manual methods are preferred to gee-whiz IT solutions. Even if you can create a kaizen newspaper on a spreadsheet, it is better to do it by hand on a big piece of paper. Even if you can see the production status on your computer screen from your office, it is better to see it on a whiteboard at the line. The idea of visual management is to see the abnormality or problem so you can take action immediately. Not only that, but you should have to "go see" the current condition by visiting the actual place - gemba - rather than relying on a report or a remote monitoring system.
I wonder if the "convergence" of technologies such as mobile phones, music players, computers, PDAs, etc. is a good thing or if it will simply make wasting time easier. Just because we can, should we? When we can play, chat, shop, pay bills, and even video-conference with people on the same device that is your primary work tool, we make visual management of office work much more difficult.
It may be wise to look at the work that needs to be done in the office and identify smaller, cheaper, single-function machines that can do the job rather than almighty personal computers. That would be Production Preparation Process (3P) for office equipment. As long as the producers are technology-pushing in the direction of more power and more features in one box, and as long as we continue to be "catalog engineers" buying the latest technology without considering if it is the minimum necessary for the job, the issue of time wasting office automation will exist.
Canon is one company in Japan that has taken a hard line on the computer as a work tool and not a toy. The Lean transformation story at Canon is an interesting one and I will share more details at a future date.
I might seem a curmudgeon for taking this position, but what concerns me is the work culture that internet enabled work tools / toys are creating. This creates a permissive attitude towards wasting time or at lest a selective viewing of what is waste and what is not. This attitude that certain types of waste are ok will erode respect, team-focus and customer orientation. That ultimately leads to failing companies, fewer good jobs, and a weaker society. We reap what we sow.
If this was your introduction to the potential time-waster that is Digg.com, load the batch file and experience the power of pokayoke to prevent waste where human discipline fails.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.