Too Busy to Be Better

“I’m just too busy.” I hear this phrase every single week from my customers and prospects. That followed by, “There’s no time for another meeting, we’re up to our neck in new design projects, it’s our busy season so we can’t even think about implementing another system, and we’re way too busy for training.”

For so long, I’ve equated success with being busy until I read this quote by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, “A man who is very busy seldom changes his opinions.” I’d like to think there is a parallel between being busy and product development. Professionals in Product Development are paid to change things, to push the envelope, and to challenge the cadence of our weekly schedules.

EAC offers LEAN Product Development seminars in different cities throughout the year. These seminars are packed with executives eager to learn the latest and greatest in LEAN theory. The executives in the room listen attentively as they begin to imagine how their organization can operate as a learning organization.

I often wonder what would happen if our keynote speaker (our fearless LEAN evangelist) stood up in the front of the room and told the audience to focus on learning for the remainder of the week. He would order VPs, Directors, and CEO’s to take their teams offsite while putting their backlog of projects, design review meetings, and production schedules on hold. Of course, that’s neither reasonable nor realistic. But what if?

According to Michael Kennedy, “the greatest waste in the enterprise is the absence of sustained, real-time organizational learning, and very little effort is being applied for resolution.” Why aren’t we all working towards becoming a learning organization? By definition, a learning organization is one that has a heightened capability to learn, adapt, and change. Isn’t that what product development should embody?

I see mission statements that claim a commitment to continuous improvement yet haven’t invested in a class in years. We find the money for new tools, but we can’t take time to learn how to use them. We invest in new product development, yet we don’t educate our people on the fundamental process behind it. Most importantly, we don’t take time to learn from our own mistakes. Why? I think the answer is our own perceived success, our busyness!

As we begin the lazy days of summer, I encourage you to start small and embrace each day. Focus on one area of your work or personal life and take some time to learn how to improve. Invest in yourself, because you are your own most powerful tool. As Dr. Seuss taught us so well, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places
you’ll go.”