TPS Benchmarking

Where does the time go?

By Jon Miller Published on May 5th, 2008

That’s what I wondered when seeing that it’s been nearly a week since the last post. It’s an idle question, until you start to think about it. Then you get dizzy, stop and look to those who came before us for insight. People have pondered time for ages: how to use it, how time changes us, what is the essence of time. Lean management is essentially about human creativity and making better use of our time in the broadest sense.
What’s time made of? Polymath and founding father of the United States Benjamin Franklin tells us:
“Dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
It’s a simplification, but life as we experience it within the stream of time. Time is both our medium and our currency.
Henry Ford say on page 114 of his book Today and Tomorrow:
“Time waste differs from material waste in that there can be no salvage. The easiest of all wastes, and the hardest to correct, is this waste of time, because wasted time does not litter the floor like wasted material.”
Those of us who do kaizen have this as part of our basic awareness. The Earl of Chesterfield gives us lesson in time based management:
“I recommend you take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves.”
And if you mind the hours, the days will take care of themselves. Mind the days, and so forth. In order to mind the minutes and seconds you need to go to where the action is: the gemba. Get out there and pay attention to what’s happening right now; this is really the essence of daily management.
Everything changes except for change itself, and it’s easy to be awed or overwhelmed by change at times. Musician David Bowie expressed this in his song Changes as:
“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.”
This sentiment speaks to the fact that we are changed by time but helpless to even trace that which is changing us. On the other hand, friend of David Bowie and pop art icon Andy Warhol said:
“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
This may be a much healthier way of putting people square in the actor’s role within time, as people change oneself or others through action or inaction.
Now as our time on this topic comes to an end, let us think deeply on this wisdom from Marx:
“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”
Thanks, guru Groucho. I feel better now.

  1. Karen Wilhelm

    May 6, 2008 - 1:20 pm

    In one of those instances of never hearing the lyrics right, I always thought David Bowie sang, “Time may change me but I can’t change time.” Does that imply something more, or less, profound than “trace”?

  2. Olivier Pizzato

    June 10, 2008 - 10:10 am

    Thanks for this highly valuable reminder. I believe time is subjective and observed that time spent in creative action last a lot more than time wasted blathering. It is of great hope because subjective life is thus potentially infinite 🙂

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