When Penny came to work, she discovered a puddle of water on her desk. Her folders she needed to work on were soaked. She immediately called maintenance to fix the leak. They arrived shortly. They used a step ladder to see where the leak was coming from. As Penny went to her first meeting, they stopped the leak.
Three days later, Penny again had a puddle of water on her desk. This time, she insisted the director of maintenance look at the problem. As he arrived, Penny stayed in her office to complain about the problem. As the director pushed open the ceiling tile, he immediately saw the problem. He came down off of the step ladder. “Here’s the problem,” he said. The coffee can under the leak is full.
How often have you seen problems fixed with metaphorical coffee cans? We are often rushed to meet time specific goals and use quick fixes to allow us to meet our goals. We know the quick fixes must eventually be replaced with permanent solutions. But we always seem to be too busy to make a permanent fix.
Think about what the quick fix is costing you in the long run. Obviously, the coffee can will continue to fill up and need to be emptied. Poor quality will need to be corrected. An untrained employee will create extra work. A toaster without proper temperature controls will require constant vigilance.
How do you get rid of the coffee can answers? The answer starts with understanding the balance between your capacity and the time it should take to do the work needed. When capacity and work requirements near 100%, you will not have the time to deal with disruptions and deal with them so that they are prevented from reoccurring.
Look at your capacity. Can you become more efficient? If so, you can free up time to deal with disruptions. If capacity can’t be increased, there will need to be adjustments to work requirements. This may require hard examination of whether some work is really necessary.
To paraphrase a popular saying: “Stuff happens.” When the ratio of work requirements to capacity reaches 85% or higher, it’s hard to deal with the stuff on a permanent basis. Think about what happens when traffic slows because there is an accident that blocks a very small part of a highway. Cars slow down, reducing the capacity and traffic backs up for miles. When you pass the accident, you are amazed that such a small blockage can cause such a problem. Small disruptions can create major problems if your work/capacity ratio is set at 100%.
As you reflect back on the past week, how many coffee cans got filled up and started leaking?
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“Learn the fundamentals of the game and stick to them. Band-Aid remedies never last.”
– Jack Nicklaus (One of the greatest golfers of all time)