Get your head out of your inbox

I’m not a betting man, but I’d be willing to lay down a few bucks that as you’re reading this you have your e-mail open and a to-do list stashed on your desk or in your head measuring a mile long and never shorter. Full disclosure: This is me on both counts, and I’ll throw in a foot-tall pile of papers on my desk for added effect.

Like many people in the world of process improvement, I do just fine talking lean principles, but come over to my desk and you’d wonder if I’d ever laid eyes on a kanban (it’s probably buried in this stack to my left). It’s this disconnect that the Center for Operational Excellence hoped to help our members fix with a Friday visit from Dan Markovitz (pictured above), chief of TimeBack Management and the author of the award-winning A Factory of One. What Markovitz does isn’t really presenting or speaking – it’s coaching, pushing the audience to look at how they manage themselves personally and instilling a desire to be as lean in the office as on the shop floor.

Considering the biggest complaint was that two hours wasn’t enough time for the forum, it’s safe to say Markovitz garnered rave reviews. If you missed it, here are some key takeaways:

‘You are your calendar’ – Markovitz accurately points out that most users of sophisticated software such as Microsoft Outlook use it only for e-mail (more on that next) and for meeting scheduling. , Take a cue from the Tom Peters video linked above and show a tasks’s importance by scheduling time for it. Using the simple tools of visual management, you can transform your calendar from a meeting alarm clock to a road map for your day.

Don’t live in your e-mail – “We all spend too much time with our heads in our inboxes,” Markovitz says. Save phone calls or in-person chats for serious, timely matters – save the e-mail for anything you can check just a few times a day.

Create value, not just deliverables – If there was one “A ha!” moment in Friday’s presentation, it was Markovitz’ insistence that “we trap ourselves into thinking about deliverables and not value.” How much of your work is driven by the former, and how much do those deliverables ultimately enhance the customer experience? Reverse your thinking, put value up top and the rest will follow.

These points all lead back to Markovitz’ challenge, that “if you’re creating a lean culture, you’ve gotta live it.”