I’ve attended a lot of leadership development courses over the years, and received many handouts, folders, and binders chock full of ways to make myself into a better manager… of people, time, money, etc.

One precept that has stuck with me is that we should pay attention tothe small things that are annoyances today, so they don’t become bigger problems tomorrow. Even if it’s unlikely that something will become a big problem, it’s worth the effort to eliminate it so that it isn’t draining our energy to deal with.

Ben Franklin figured this outlong ago, with his saying “A stitch in time saves nine.” As a youngster, I confess that this didn’t make much sense to me. What is a stitch in time? (Is that a problem in the space-time continuum?) Saves nine what? Now I get it – sewing up a small rip saves it from getting larger and needing more stitches to fix later – perhaps after all my money has fallen out of the pocket! (Just goes to show why I wasn’t any good in my Home Economics classes.)

In my daily work, I try to be on the lookout for those small things – like, my stapler broke and I can’t take the time to order a new one, so I have to keep using paper clips that fall off. Like, my AAA battery died in my mouse but I don’t have time to stop and get new batteries from central supply, so I’ll use the keyboard alternatives. Like, one of may chair casters fell off and I’ve propped it up with a book “for now.”

Sometimes it’s a matter of looking at things from a lean perspective – kanban or 5S is very helpful. But it’s also the concept of taking time to fix the small things, so that I don’t spend a lot of time doing work-arounds which are innately less efficient and less satisfying.

Maybe you have already found this out for yourself – want to share any related examples or experiences?

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