50 ◾ A Factory of One
others have to remind you of a commitment you’ve
made—a waste of waiting for you to get your job done,
a waste of effort in following up with you for the third or
fourth time. And by the way, that’s just the waste if they’re
successful in reminding you in time; there’s even more
waste from product defects, rework, preventable patient
illnesses, and so on if you don’t get the work done.
◾ The time wasted and defects caused by multitasking.
We mistakenly believe that we’re more efﬁcient when
we multitask—in fact, you probably pride yourself on
your ability to multitask. Yet, the research is conclusive:
Multitasking doesn’t work. Trying to do two (or more)
things at once slows us down and increases the likeli-
hood of errors.
◾ Penalties and fees imposed for work that is turned in late.
◾ The time, effort, and energy expended on rework.
◾ The erosion of trust among colleagues and irritated
These are just a few of the common, but less-obvious,
examples of the waste created by a lack of “ﬂow” in your
work. Most companies haven’t yet bothered to quantify this
waste because “that’s just the way people [or the system]
works.” But that way of thinking isn’t good enough anymore.
The world is too competitive, and the risks of working the
same way as always are too high. We must bring the same
rigor that we bring to improving assembly-line work and busi-
ness processes to individual knowledge work.
In the classic book Lean Thinking, authors Dan Jones and Jim
Womack explained how traditional work processes are done
in “batch-and-queue” fashion. Work is sent from department to