Feeling Cluttered? Prune!
Have you ever tried to find something in your garage or storage cupboard? You know what you are looking for, you know where it is, but to get there you have to wade through loads of other stuff?
Stuff just accumulates, little by little; you hardly notice it – in fact, most often you don't notice it at all – until you are looking for something. So, as you focus on your prize, you set about moving stuff out of the way, perhaps piling it on top of other things in another part of the room; as you progress, you find something that got damaged, but you keep it anyway, who knows, you might be able to fix it. Finally, you get to the thing you are looking for, and you give it a tug to release it from the grip of the other things around it. You trip as you lurch backwards knocking over neat pile of paper that was balanced precariously on a tower of boxes – that is now all over the place, but you’ll deal with that later.
It’s almost funny when you think of it in a home situation like that, but when that scenario is repeated time and time again in a work environment, that adds up to a lot of time and money wasted. Money is tied up in stuff, time and energy are wasted as you work around it. Some of it, like the year’s supply of printer paper in your stationary cupboard or the fine collection of coffee options in your kitchen will one day probably be used or consumed in your business.
However, there is a type of stuff that is so common and so bad. Yes, the stuff that is not going to get worked on and is not going to add value to anything else. And it is just there and it is everywhere. And because it never moves, we stop seeing it and just work around it. And I am not talking about the pictures, or vase of flowers, or item of obscure furniture that improve the working environment, lift spirits and adds a little joy to the lives of your employees. I’m talking about the stuff that does NOTHING. It’s cluttering your physical and mental space, affecting how you work and how well you work, and you NEED to do something about it. The answer ....... ?
Pruning. When starting with a new client to improve the internal efficiency and effectiveness, one of the easiest activities to employ to have immediate impact and get everyone in the spirit of lean (or simplification as it’s often called in the office environment) is Pruning. Yes, we are borrowing a concept from gardening and applying it to the office. There are 3 stages to pruning your office (or shop-floor, or garage or basement):
Get rid of all the dead wood. In theory, this should be the easiest part. Have a look around you. Start with garbage – throw it all away. Clear away old coffee cups, plates, half eaten sandwiches from a week ago (yes it does happen). This is all the stuff that takes no thought – it's a no brainer. Already, the place will look a little better. Vacuum and wipe down your surfaces – as you bump into things and have to move them, check to see if it is junk. You can do this in your office as a whole, or in your personal work area.
Get rid of the wood that isn’t working for you. This is a little more difficult but much easier to see and consider now that the dead wood has gone. Have blitzes on themes; a good theme to start on is ‘technology bits and pieces’. Allocate an hour for everyone to look in cupboards and drawers and various other dark corners for all those old connectors and cables (that came free with every computer) floppy disks (nobody has used those for decades), manuals (for software that you don’t have anymore, and is undoubtedly available on-line if you ever really need it), keyboards, mouses (yes that is the correct plural for the non-furry creature variety) and on it goes. Before you do this, arrange for disposal otherwise you just have a pile that you don’t know what to do with. Other themes are: magazines & papers, samples, paints & chemicals, hardware & IKEA spares, information posters etc. Every time you tackle a theme, your workspace becomes less cluttered and you can see more of what is around you. You will occasionally come across an Item that you think “it’s worth a lot of money to someone, surely”, or “that will be useful to someone – someday”’ or “we can’t throw that away, it’s always been there”. In situations like this, use a RED TAG; the tag is visible to everyone. Put a date on it – 1 or 2 week’s time. And on that date, if no one has said they want it, want to buy it, got an idea of what can be done with it, then dispose of it. Vacuum and wipe down your surfaces – as you bump into things and have to move them, check to see what it is.
Work with the valuable wood. As time goes by, all you should be left with is the stuff that adds value – either making a positive contribution to the working environment, or being involved in your processes. With the clutter gone or going, you can now work to improve the velocity that work flows through your processes; it may already be moving quicker as you have removed a lot of the stuff that was slowing you down.
Happy Pruning. I want to help you to be the best in the world. Pruning is a great way to start. If you want to take a serious approach to world-class internal efficiency, send me an email or call me.