What do I do if I have nothing to do?
I’ve just finished my current task. What should I do now
Chances are you don’t have anything to do right now. Don’t worry. It’s fine.
Industry 1.0 and 2.0 paved the way for people not having to think what to do next. Assembly line workers or people at offices would follow clearly defined procedures and systems. Put a nut into a piece. Put another nut into the next piece. Repeat for 8 hours. Go home. After that, the point was optimizing times and efforts so you could lower costs as much as possible.
But it happened that Lean, Toyota Production System and Theory of Constraints demonstrated that working at 100% (or more!) rate is not beneficial, but decreases productivity.
I was thinking on it last saturday, watching the RTVE Orchestra playing the Star Wars Suite.
An orchestra ensembles dozens of highly trained, highly skilled professionals to accomplish a common goal. They all play together to accomplish it.
They all play together? But then, who are that group of people sitting, silent and still, in the background? There are at least fifty of them. And they haven’t done a thing for the whole first two pieces. They don’t have instruments, by the way.
Are they even part of the orchestra?
In fact, they are. They are the choir. They just remained in the background, for eight minutes and a half, silent, still, not disturbing, maybe relaxing, focusing or doing a mental recap of the notes they are going to be singing for the next piece.
Could they be helping the guy with the drums on his beating. Clearly not.
Would they be of help turning the pages of the score of the man whith the trombone. Of course not.
So they just sit still.
Could they be out of the stage, behind the scenes, chating or having a drink? They always could enter after the end of the second piece.
Yes, they could. But it would not be efficient, nor a nice watch. They would last forever to enter and sit down, ruining the flow of the concert, distracting the crowd in attendance and the performers.
So they just sit still.
Having every people in the orchestra, in the team, busy 100% of the time, is not only bad for morale… it’s highly inefficient.
So whenever you face it, please, think clearly and, if you don’t have anything to do, just wait still, focusing for being ready to start working again the very moment it makes sense.
- The Toyota Way (Liker): “Toyota management says it is OK to run less than 100% of the time, even when the line is capable of running full-time, yet Toyota is regularly ranked among the most productive plants in the auto industry. Why? Because Toyota learned long ago that solving quality problems at the source saves time and money downstream.”
- Synchronize your watches (Seth): “The work itself now tells you when to start working on it, as the project is passed from desk to desk, from account to account.”
- Managing the Unmanageable (Mantle and Litchy): “Prioritize. Sometimes, it is urgent to wait. […] When an unexpected issue comes up, engineers (mostly) tend to want to fix it right away to show their mettle, forgetting their actual priorities. It is actually more difficiult to sit back and wait first to understand the actual priority of the new issue” – Phac Le Tuan