18 Aug 2022

The Cost of “Just In Time” Thinking

By Kim Ellet, Certified Professional Coach

In manufacturing, Just in Time (JIT) is an inventory management method in which, according to Zoho, goods are received from suppliers only as they are needed. The reasoning behind this method is to reduce overhead costs of storing a lot of materials that may or may not actually be sold or used to produce a product.  However, this concept of Just in Time can wreak havoc as a Leadership Style for managers and business owners. The “just in time” leadership or productivity style is akin to waiting until the night before your 50-page term paper is due to write the first page.

Stephen Covey illustrates JIT thinking in his quadrant model with the continuum between Urgent and Important tasks. The most urgent and important tasks are in the upper, right-hand quadrant in what I call the “hair on fire” quadrant. Here everything is urgent and important and needed to be done yesterday.  Most “just in time” thinkers make their deadlines but there are several costs to consider.

Costs of Just In Time Thinking
  1. Compromising your best work – In the rush to meet deadlines, how much of your best work can you realistically complete?
  2. Lost opportunities – This is a common trap for many owners and leaders. When waiting until the last minute to complete important tasks, the time to delegate or train others to do the work is lost. The opportunity to help others advance and learn new skills has been missed.
  3. Peace of Mind – Over time the JIT thinking approach leads to the burnout zone. The cost of your peace of mind cannot be underestimated. 
  4. Hinders Sustainability and Growth – JIT Thinking creates a culture where the company relies too heavily on the owner because she is doing all the work. There will always be only so much work that one person can do, so it becomes impossible to maintain and to grow. 
Ways to Shift from Just In Time Thinking

JIT thinking is often a result of trying to do too much without proper planning or realistic management of your time.  Recognize that your management and task style is typically a habit by this point in your career and life. As with any important and worthwhile change, it takes time and consistency. 

Here are a few tips that may help.

  1. The first step with any change is to evaluate what it’s costing you to keep things as they are. In other words, clearly identify why this change is so important. Visualize the benefits and payoff for making the change.
  2. Recognize that change will occur in small steps and commit to taking small steps. You don’t want to add to the overwhelm by declaring one more huge project to undertake! In other words, start by clearing out the clutter in one drawer, not the entire office.
  3. Quiet your mind. Allow for time to let yourself be still and not think about all the to-do’s and what-ifs. Practice mindfulness or simply take a walk outside, look at the flowers and trees, meditate or listen to calming music. 
  4. Cut down on information overload. Take a break from the noise and turn off all your devices for a set amount of time each day. Being selective in the types of information you are willing to consume will also provide a break for resting the brain to create more time for planning and innovating.
  5. Create a shorter to-do list for the day, starting with only one project and allowing ample time to finish. Again, breaking this down into small steps can be very helpful. Rather than waiting until the last minute to complete the entire project, add small steps to your daily to-do’s. For example, if you have a blog due in a week, spend some time today listing out possible topics and tomorrow create an outline for points to make on the topic you select. The writing can come on another day. Type it up the next day and you will still be a day or two ahead of schedule (with your peace of mind intact!)
  6. Fake Deadlines – if you know you tend to procrastinate until the last minute, set up an earlier deadline so you aren’t pulling an all-nighter to complete your work.
  7. Enlist help and accountability partnerships – Think of the success you achieve when you have a trainer at the gym or a coach to account to on a regular basis. 
  8. Discipline – When you decide how important it is to make the changes, commit to yourself and be consistent. 

It will feel so good to have some wiggle room to do your best work and allow yourself to rest! Let me know what you have come up with to avoid Just In Time Thinking and keeping yourself motivated and on track.

As a Leadership Coach and DEI Facilitator, I help my clients improve collaboration, connection, and engagement. Leaders can shape the culture and impact within their companies and organizations, and the greater community. Reach out to me for more information on bringing your team together for successful communication and facilitated safe conversations.  KEllet@thegrowthcoach.com

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