Do you know the feeling of being busy all day, but no idea what you have achieved? I do. As (project) secretary, I am highly dependent on the work load I receive every day. This makes the work ‘dynamic’ (or so they say), but I don’t have to tell you that my work pace is very levelled.
I am glad I started to study lean. It gives me a way to explain in a simple way what I have done since I started working. Because I know what I am doing, but that doesn’t mean another does.
Heijunka – level scheduling
To avoid ‘mura’, imbalance in work load, there is a number of possible solutions. In shop terms, this means planning. In office terms, this usually is called time management. Given the amount of books written on these topics, it is obviously hard to plan. Or it is just over-complicated.
So how am I to get things done, when ‘my’ managers (or colleagues) have troubles achieving this?
Calculate the actual working time
One of the nice tools I have learned is to calculate my actual working time. Say that I work 32 hours per week, divided into 4 days of 8 hours. In this week, I have to attend meetings, I take breaks and am I for other reasons not working. The sum would look something like this:
|Actual working time||26.00|
In these 26 hours, I can work on my main tasks. But… I also have to calculate some hours for unforseen work. For me, 1 hour per day works fine. This leaves 22 hours per week for scheduled / known tasks.
Planning the work
Everyone has main tasks. Every task has its takt time; its own natural pace in which a tasks is processed (preferably with maximum quality). Through experience, I am able to predict these tasks on the outline. Experience has also taught me how much time I approximately need for each task. This enables me to daily plan the tasks I need to perform; big ones first and plan small tasks around them. This gives me insight in how much time I have left for additonal work or what I need to replan for lack of time, both daily and weekly.
Through planning and focusing on the task at hand, I get my things done. I try to avoid double handling of emails and other documents for whatever reasons whenever I can: this means the wastes of transport, waiting and overprocessing. I plan time to handle my emails and process them immediately when possible. And when there is no unforseen work, I use my time for 5S activities or other small tasks.
Slow and consistent
“Work like a tortoise, not like a hare” (Taiichi Ohno). The idea is that the slower but consistent tortoise causes less waste during its ‘travel’ from A to B. Every task has its starting point (A) and its ending point (B). In lean, it is not only the result that counts, but also the process to achieve that result. For in the process, there is room for improvement. And when the process is improved, the result will very likely improve as well. But to get there, you need to take the time to take a look at yourself and see improvements.
By respecting the natural processing time of each task (takt time), I am able to work like a tortoise and still get my work load for the week done at the end of the week. At least… most of the time. Because there are always unexpected tasks that need to be done and somebody appoints that to me. Well, that is just the life of a project secretary.