Sunday, October 5, 2014

Any Compromise between JIT and FTT?

The extreme deadlines I've been under at work, coupled with being very busy at home, have caused me to think about deadlines, how they are set, and how they are dealt with. Tuesday-Wednesday I worked on a project with an urgent deadline. I put in some extra hours and turned it over to CADD people to complete, and I think it's going out on time. Thursday I was given a construction specification to write, with great panic on the faces and in the demeanor of the two men who brought it to me. It turned out to be much less work than either of them thought, and I had it done at the end of the day with barely any extra time.

But this got me thinking about two ways of planning your schedule. My dad's way was to build in what he called "flat tire time." That is, wherever he wanted to go, with a sensitive deadline, he wanted to leave early enough time to be able to change a tire if he got a flat en-route. In 18 years of riding to church with him, or being the driver once I had my license, we never once had a flat tire. Two miles on a main road with light Sunday morning traffic, sometimes picking up old Charlie Kenyon at the bus stop to save him the fare. Always there way ahead of time, with time to sit and pray or otherwise contemplate why we were there.

The alternative is what modern industry calls the "just in time" schedule. If church starts at 9:30, and the drive should take you 18 minutes under normal conditions, leave the house at 9:12 and you'll get there on time, if all things hold to the average. Poor Charlie will have to take the bus. No, actually, he'll have caught the bus long before you whiz by at 5 miles over the speed limit. If anything isn't average, you have no margin for error, and are likely to be a little late close to half the time.

I must confess to being a FTT person. JIT throws me for a loop and gets me overly stressed out. If I have a deadline, say on Thursday, to have everything ready to give to the client Friday morning, I'd rather work my extra hours on Wednesday (or even Tuesday) rather than on Thursday, giving myself flat tire time. Alas, the dominant culture at my company is built around JIT, and I can't do anything to change it. Many things in my personal life seem also to be built around JIT, with no hope of changing it either.

Where is the compromise point? If the drive takes 18 minutes, and changing a tire would take, let's say, 15 minutes, that says you should leave 33 minutes before the event. Or, actually, since you'll have to wash your hands once you get there, before you enter the event, that's more like 35 or 40 minutes ahead. If everything goes well, you'll be there 20 minutes early. Lots of contemplation time. Most of the time that won't be needed.

But, surely some amount of margin in needed. Planning to get there 10 minutes ahead of time gives you margin to account for a wreck on the highway that slows you down, or for rainfall that slows you down. Or, if you plan for 10 minutes of margin, and you're getting ready to leave and can't find your cell phone, you have time to track it down and you can still make your engagement on time. That's margin. That's what I like.

I wish I knew how to make that happen. If anyone knows, I'd appreciate you leaving me a comment about it. Meanwhile, I can only control my own behavior, give myself margin, and use that margin to contemplate when things go according to average.

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