Sometimes you must take the car in for an oil change. Sometimes the car requires a tune-up or tires. This means you have to go to wherever you have this kind of work done and wait for your car to be serviced. It costs money and it dents your day. And when you see the mechanic coming toward you with a belt in his hand, you know you’re going be there at least another hour and will spend another $150. Hoses are worse. Anything metal and the day is shot.

But we do it. We do it because maintaining the car beats being stranded on the road at an unexpected time.

We plan the downtime to avoid unexpected downtime. We plan the expense to avoid a greater unplanned expense.

That’s why we take care of our cars, right?

Why don’t we do this with our businesses? Sure, we ‘down’ equipment for scheduled maintenance. But has your business ever downed people for re-tooling?

Is there a reason we can’t get a few people in a room with a list of common tasks and pose the question, “is there a better way of doing things?” Why not?

I talk to managers at businesses and government departments who are stretched to their limits. Their people are stressed to their breaking points. Efficiency is declining and tempers flaring. Accusations are flying. (Note: If you think I’m writing about your business because we’ve talked recently, you’re only partially right. This applies to nearly every conversation I’ve had in the past 2 weeks.)

Friday is typically the slowest day of the week. Many people take off early. Maybe to get their cars serviced.

Can’t we designate 2 hours on Friday, maybe every other Friday, to work on that MBA babble that all businesses spew but never do: Work on continuous improvement?

Here’s what you need.

Colored index cards
Legal pads
Post-it notes
White board and pens

You are looking for ways to improve processes
No criticism is allowed
No idea is off-limits
The meeting continues until at least on problem is solved
Volunteers to carry out ‘extra’ work will receive something (Dinner certificates, savings bond, etc)


Can you make something in Excel that could get information into a single location? Can you make a Word file with on-going notes that people can check to see status? Can you develop a simple PowerPoint presentation that explains the answers to that customer question that keeps coming up?

See what I’m getting at? Simple solutions for organizational issues are inside the heads of your talent. You need to give a little time for those ideas to come out.

I can feel the dismissals as I write this. Fine. Continue to bleed profit. Your choice. But I assure you, this works and can save a lot of stress, time and money.

Or I suppose you can keep driving until the engine fails or the belt breaks.

Chris Reich