My wife and I just celebrated her birthday recently. She has one of those “unfortunate” birthdays that coincide with or right next to the “gift-giving” holidays, namely Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or even Sweetest Day (?). From a man’s perspective, one celebration (and one gift?) can cover two important events, and that is pretty efficient! But I am sure a lot of ladies, probably like my wife, are not thrilled about their significant others combining the two events together in the name of being efficient, it is more like the man is getting away too easily! Well, here are some interesting questions to ponder: what “longer term” effect is there because of this perceived efficiency gain? Will the relationship be hurt because of this action? Are the savings in cost and time worth the harm to the relationship? Most men probably will think it is not a big deal, but is it?
The automotive and many other industries made significant gains in productivity over the past 20 to 30 years, utilizing technologies in all aspects of design and manufacturing processes, reducing wastes, implementing error proofing systems, managing inventories, etc. We can now do a lot more with a lot fewer resources, including labor, materials, time, and capital investments. Companies like to claim productivity improvements by a certain amount, whatever ways these productivity gains are calculated. It is a good thing to be more productive, to get more done in less time, isn’t it? Conventional wisdom says so and intuitively we all agree.
But I would like to look at this from a different angle. I would say that unless one knows exactly what to do with the time, materials, and money saved to create more outputs, the productivity gain really is wasted. Furthermore, if the productivity is measured by the additional outputs one can achieve and the outputs are not benefiting anyone, then the productivity gain is not worth it either. For example, I consider myself fairly efficient in executing tasks, so if a task is usually completed in 10 minutes on average and I can get it done in 5 minutes, I am pretty efficient, am I not? but if I use the five minutes twirling my thumbs and staring blankly in space, the 5 minutes I gain is wasted, so am I really productive? If a production line can produce 80 vehicles an hour instead of 60 by implementing various productivity improvement methods but it takes a month longer than average to sell the additional 20 vehicles produced, then was the productivity improvement really an efficiency gain in the grand scheme of things? The answer is open to debate for sure.
Anyway, my wife is really nice about the whole thing and I am getting away with one celebration instead of two. But, I am smart enough not to claim any efficiency gain or cost savings in front of her. We all need to be smarter about implementing methods to gain efficiency, improve productivity, save upfront time and costs, etc. Think through the whole thing, look at the whole picture to understand how to utilize the gains achieved so that we don’t do a bunch of things and end up the same as if we didn’t do anything at all!Happy Chinese New Year, the Year of the Sheep! My wife’s birthday, according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, is coming up again right after the Chinese New Year so we do have a chance for a second celebration after all!