• Kobetsu Kaizen: The pros and cons of procrastination

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    Reylito A.H. Elbo

    Reylito A.H. Elbo

    A 32-YEAR-old American-educated man had been appointed president of a rural bank. He approached the venerable chairman and majority owner of the bank and asked for his advice. The old man replied with just two words: “Right decisions!” The young man responded: “That’s really helpful. I appreciate it. But can you be more specific?

    “How do I make the right decisions?” The wise old man simply responded: “Experience.” The young man said: “Well, that’s just the reason why I’m seeking your counsel. I don’t have the kind of experience I need. How do I get it?” The old man blurted out another terse reply: “Wrong decisions!”

    Here’s another example. A prospective client spent more than six months selecting a kaizen (continuous improvement) consultant from a list that offered different professional fees. When the client had finally signed our contract, I immediately buckled down to work to show him the numbers and opportunities in peso signs that he missed, the amount of valuable time he spent making the decision, and how much they spent for some of his company’s non-value-adding costs that we failed to discover until he signed my engagement contract.

    The amount was staggering and he was visibly reluctant to talk about it. The client may have made a wrong decision by hiring the consultant in the first place, but whether it was right or wrong, at least the company may have identified some costly points in their business operations that may have been identified a long time ago, even by college students trained to identify issues from a 100-kilometer distance.

    This happens most of the time because an outsider, if given the “freedom to intervene”, can offer a fresh set of eyes to people and organizations that are blinded by proximity to their problems. Imagine what an experienced consultant can do more than students.

    We’ll, I can’t blame this client. Although choosing between two consultants should be simple, the process can be tricky if you base your decision on their CVs, their consulting plans, and of course, their professional fees. That’s why I’m offering a result-based consulting program. You don’t have to pay me anything until I’m successful in helping you identify non-value adding things in your workplace. This alone should help you fast-track your decision.

    And to do just that you adopt kobetsu kaizen, or focused continuous improvement. The process can start by going directly to the shop floor or service areas to discover the biggest killer expenses like product defects, frequent machine breakdowns, workers’ high absenteeism or overtime rates, and many more.

    How much does the organization lose every day when its decision-makers are afflicted by the problem of procrastination? How much is the organizational profitability affected by delayed decisions? How much is its wealth reduced when its managers forget that there’s such a thing as doing more with less approach? And why do we lose the fight against procrastination so frequently?

    I realize that we Filipinos love procrastination. We love our Spanish conquerors so much that we shamelessly imbibed their mańana(tomorrow) habit until it became too late for us. My point here is that in matters of decision-making, Spanish managers are not the best role models. No, wait! That’s not exactly the point. My point is that perhaps Russian managers are better because they can rush people to do their thing even on weekends and holidays.

    But maybe procrastination is part of our everyday life and has been since time immemorial. Without it, our life can be boring. I vividly remember when I was in high school, and I wanted to write a letter to one beautiful girl. And before I had chosen what type of fragrant stationery to write my love intentions, I had spent 30 days going to every shop. So when I actually decided to choose the right stationery, the time had come for me to choose the right ball pen, which took me another 20 days.

    Fortunately, my love interest had understood my basic intentions through our eyes. This was a good thing, because I did not need to write anything on paper because if she had refused me, I would have been so humiliated that I would have never been able to go back to school with that clear documentary evidence. I would have dropped out of high school and lied about my age to join the local forces against the Vietcong, and as a direct result the Americans would have won the war.

    That’s the awesome power of procrastination that could happen from time to time.

    Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for his random thoughts.

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