Parkinson's Law

C. Northcote Parkinson coined the law: Work expands to fill the time allotted to it. Every student has had that experience, cramming for a test on the last night before a final. The same holds true for home projects and work projects, unless you're really Lean about how you get work done.

Arthur's Axiom to Parkinson's Law 
Having done many Lean projects with various companies, I have found a similar pattern:

Work expands to fill the available space.

If you've got lots of room for a hospital lab, analysis machines will spread out over the space. It's designed to give people more room which causes more walking which causes delays which causes longer turnaround times.

When I designed our kitchen remodel. I put the triangle of stove, sink, and refrigerator close to each other. I barely have to move when I cook. In contrast, I look at some of the mansions they're building and the kitchen is immense. You need a golf cart to commute from the refrigerator to the sink to the stove. It's no wonder people in big houses rarely cook; it's faster to go out to eat.

If you want to know how far people travel, have them wear a pedometer for a few days. In hospital labs, we found technicians were walking 2-5 miles a day in a 2,400 sq. ft space--the distance from Denver to Pittsburgh--every year. When we redesigned the space, they traveled less than half that distance and I think there was still room for improvement

Key Insight: Never use a fixed workbench, desk or other work area. Everything should be mobile so that you can reconfigure on a moments notice any time you discover a better way to handle the product or service.

Here's My Point
Have you let the work in your office or factory expand to fill the available space? Couldn't you tighten it up to reduce unnecessary travel of people and products? How might this reduce your turnaround times and minimize errors?

It's not unusual to reduce your space requirements by 20% and double productivity.

Don't let work expand to fill the available space. Shrink the space to match the work and optimize throughput. Your customers will love you for it.

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, (888) 468-1537,"

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