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Jun 6, 2008

The tasks of improvement

Some of the units at our university, which shall remain unnamed, cannot improve. They run into the same problems semester after semester, and heroically overcome those, every time. The people there work just as hard as anyone else, if not harder. They are always friendly, helpful, and get things done. And we end up talking to them quite a bit, because, well, there are problems; the same ones again and again.

How does t happen that people are so busy working, they don't have the time to figure out a way of doing their work better, more efficiently, with fewer errors? Not that I don't know how, for our little operation at STE has its own backlog of unsolved issues. We simply don't have time to get to them. But it bothers me when serious, chronic problems, all of which are solvable, get put off again and again. What bothers me is a day-to-day mentality, where things are done for the day, as if they are done for the last time. Next day brings the same exact problems, but we are just waiting for the day to end.

I don't want our School be among those units that will remain unnamed. We need to keep improving things, small and big, even just to keep ourselves moving. So, let's take a look at what we do, and make sure we spend our time and energy on doing more complex, more interesting work, and don't waste our lives stepping on the same rake every day. Here is my set of adages to help:

  • If you work too hard, it probably means you don't work too smart.
  • The best use of time is in thinking where all your time goes.
  • Thinking is noticing patterns, and everyone notices if you work without thinking.
  • The most interesting work is getting rid of uninteresting work.
  • When we try to ignore how stupid something is, we say "it's always been done that way."

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