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A Small Amount of Time Can Yield Big Results

by Jean Cunningham
February 15, 2019

A Small Amount of Time Can Yield Big Results

by Jean Cunningham
February 15, 2019 | Comments (5)

At our office, Matt Savas had a great idea to apply the PFEP (Plan for every Part) concept to the way we interact with our our customers. We call it PFEC, or, Plan for Every Customer. Our pilot was to select customer organizations who have shown interest in learning, based on either bulk book purchases, significant summit attendance, or tour/workshop participation. 

Our pilot entails creating buddy work teams and proactively reaching out to the customers, or as we call them, Learners. Our history at LEI has been more reactive; but in the spirit of the first concept in Lean thinking, we are taking specific actions in order to better understand our customer need. 

As we kicked off this work as a team, we spent several weeks of upfront planning, with a weekly 60-90 minute work session. Each meeting was taking less and less time, but still ‘filling up’ the scheduled time.

Last week, Matt changed the structure of the meeting to an update. We scheduled 30 minutes. Each buddy pair was given a four-minute target time to share their update. 

Wow, we found out that four minutes can be a long time. Every team reported plus other team members shared contacts or knowledge of the organization.

We found we actually got more done by getting clear on our focus and our timeframe.

For me, I saw this as a great example of small batch and flow in an office project. Small batch was reducing time available for each pair to report, allowing them to focus on the value-add info. Flow because each report was directly followed by the next with no long debate or intervention. With limited time, each team self-selected the most important (or value add) elements.

PDCA is also an element of this experience. By spending time PLANning up front, but not too much, we go to DO or action faster, so that we can now CHECK what we experienced and make ADJUSTments for our second round.  Each buddy was better prepared for their four minutes. 

Four minutes, well focused, can be a long time. Without competing distractions, many words can be spoken, and absorption of new info happens.

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Alexander Gray February 19, 2019

Jean, you mention that a great structural change that was made, was changing the meeting to updates. 90 minute sessions were reduced to 30, with each team getting 4 minutes to share their update. The logic behind this as noted, was to focus only on value-add info and remove debates or interventions. This in turn provided move time to implement later DO actions. That said, while I'm aware you guys are now using updates, it is really necessary to even meet at this point if nothing is being discussed. You guys could just email each other to maximize time even further in theory.

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Matthew Savas March 07, 2019

Hi Alexander - Thanks for the comment about email. We still prefer meeting in person for a number of reasons because a meeting offers few things that email cannot. For one, a face-to-face forum creates a sense or urgency to follow through on assignments. Also, I find the meeting cuts down on unnecessary email communication because everyone knows they'll have an opportunity to ask questions and share at the meeting. So a single 30-minute meeting for 10 people can cut down on many emails read and responded to individually. Finally, I'm going to adjust the meeting starting next week to encourage more discussion. Currently, we are providing quick updates. But I want the chance to share more about what we are learning in engaging with customers. 

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Matthew Dias February 19, 2019

Thank you for sharing this experience with us. It is interesting to hear that cutting down the meeting time actually increased productivity, but not suprising. When a meeting is set up, people typically try to engage in dialogue during the entire session. This can cause workers to filibuster and drag out responses since they have the time to do so. However, by setting up structure and constraints on the time and topics to be discussed, the workers are forced to filter down their responses to the most important highlights. These highlights cover the majority of what needs to be said while cutting out the wasted time spent elaborating or debating things that don't need to be discussed.  

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Matt Kelly February 19, 2019

Thank you for sharing this interesting read! I think everyone in the business world is aware of how inefficient some of the longer meetings are. By keeping it to half an hour, the audience knows they are getting condensed work. As a result, I believe they will listen more attentively knowing that the information they are getting is of utmost importance. Additionally, the time saved could be used to accomplish other goals.

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Jimmy Mendillo February 19, 2019

Great post Jean. I like the idea of "batch and flow" meetings. I have been in work environments where team members ramble on in a meeting; ideas can get lost and confused. Alex commented above with the idea of an email rather than a meeting; I think face to face meetings are necessary for certain projects, and your PDCA seems to work wonderfully!

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