Grappling with efficiency
The mind works in mysterious ways. In the midst of an intense Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training session, I began to think about motion studies - reducing the number of steps required to perform a task with the sole purpose of increasing productivity. Certainly an odd thing to be thinking about while trying to inflict serious hurt on my opponent, but the following dialogue with my instructor might explain why:
Instructor (yelling at me): “No! Do it again!”
Me (sheepishly): “Ok…”
(I then proceed to struggle with a complex submission known as the omoplata)
Instructor (annoyed): “You have to be efficient with your movements, Rich! Stop flailing around like a chicken!”
For the uninitiated, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting, whereby you attempt to submit your opponent using an arsenal of joint-locks or chokeholds. Whether used as a self defense or competing in it as a sport, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be incredibly effective (and painful) when executed properly. However, since most submissions involve a series of steps, the timing must be right and the mechanics exact or you’ll end up thrashing about without any success in defeating your adversary. It comes as no surprise that the core principle of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is simply “minimum effort for maximum efficiency”.
The principle of “minimum effort for maximum efficiency” translates into “doing more with less”. Think about that for a moment – you put in less effort, you get more in return. It sounds impossible if not downright crazy. Yet, this very concept has been successfully proven since the dawn of mankind - the wheel, the pulley, and the lever are testaments to this. Perhaps the best example of “minimum effort for maximum efficiency” is the printing press; before its invention, books were hand-printed at a rate of 40 pages per day (along with the accompanying writer’s cramp). Once introduced, however, a single printing press could produce almost 4,000 pages per day – an almost unthinkable improvement in efficiency to achieve in the 15th century.
We can further validate the impact of improving efficiency by taking a closer look at the historical relationship between the time spent at work and the corresponding output generated. In 1940, the average U.S. worker put in nearly 2,150 hours per year (roughly 41 hours per week) on the job. By 2009, that declined to just under 1,800 hours per year (or 34 hours per week) - yet the output per U.S. worker during that same time period increased over 300%!
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Source: U.S. Department of Labor
Henry Ford was on to something when he proposed the 5-day, 40-hour work week in 1926. Around that time, the average U.S. worker was putting in close to 3,000 hours per year (nearly 60 hours per week) on the job. Ford was criticized by pundits and industrialists for the preposterous notion that shortening the work week would yield a better return. It was Ford’s belief, however, that the shortened work week would actually increase productivity because there was simply less time to complete the tasks at hand – it basically forced workers to become more efficient.
It’s hard to argue with the outcome. Based on these results, every one of us should be making every effort to become more efficient. If you work in an office environment like I do, it may not be so obvious how to do that, but Avaya has a solution that may help. With the launch of IP Office Release 6.0, Avaya introduced a new user solution called “Office Worker”, which helps employees work faster and smarter. How? To start, you can control calls from your PC or laptop, allowing you to organize and access all of your speed dial entries from a single location. If you are handling high call volumes, you’ll want to transfer calls or conference in colleagues quickly – a task that can be challenging using just a telephone. With Office Worker, you can transfers or conference people with just the click of your PC mouse – a much more efficient means to an end.
Voice mail messages, emails, and faxes can be viewed and managed using one interface, which not only gives you better control, it allows you to determine which are the highest priority – critical for providing differentiated customer service. And if you’re on an important call, but need to know the status of a co-worker, Office Worker has built-in presence and instant messaging capability that allows you to “see” what they’re doing and send an instant message to improve response times and speed decision-making.
It’s all about “minimum effort for maximum efficiency” – my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor would be proud.
Now if it could only help me with that omoplata…
Posted by Rich DeFabritus at 15:21 on March 23, 2010