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Why Being On Time Matters

Monday, March 5, 2012 by Slaughter Development

Process improvement mostly consists of tasks like analysis, optimization, and implementation. But sometimes the best way to improve business process is to simply focus on being on time.

This is not the first time you’ve heard that punctuality is a virtue. It’s easy to understand how keeping our appointments is a sign of respect. This is especially the case for improving employee productivity. If your boss keeps her word about meetings, deadlines and other time-sensitive promises, it’s easy to feel motivated to get things done.

Failure to be prompt has consequences. When you are late or blow someone off entirely, you are telling them that your time is more important than theirs. Of course we should all be on time. And naturally, when circumstances pop up we should call ahead to say we are running late.

Let’s put aside human psychology for a moment, however, and talk about machinery. Time is an essential element in any working system. The spark plugs in an engine have to fire at exactly the right speed.  A bridge can hold the weight of a million cars, as long as are spaced far enough apart.  A clock quickly becomes useless if every second is not precisely one second long. All of these parameters are designed to increase efficiency. Time is important!

Being late is like taking the oil out of a well run machine. It gums up the works, cranks up the heat, and causes things to break. When you are late to a doctor’s appointment, you may cause a domino effect that disrupts other patients. And when the doctor is running behind, you may end up waiting for ages thanks to overlapping ripples in the schedule. This problem applies to any business. Improvement is only possible if we recognize that failure to manage time affects everything.

When we place time at the forefront of our minds, everything starts to look like a chance to increase efficiency. Meetings of ten people that start five minutes late waste fifty minutes of productive time. Missed deadlines and padded estimates undermine efforts to plan. Business process improvement opportunities begin with understanding timing.

The next time you respond to an email five minutes after it arrives, consider the precedent you are setting with that client. The next time you answer a phone call on the first ring and talk for an hour, consider the impact on your schedule. Often, increasing efficiency means learning how to say no in order to make better use of time. In any case, you can build an effective business process on the foundation of being on-time. Promptness does not ensure perfection, but at least keeps progress on schedule.

I owe all my success in life to having been always a quarter of an hour before my time. - Lord Nelson

While we keep a man waiting, he reflects on our shortcomings. - French Proverb

Better never than late. - George Bernard Shaw

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

Neophyte or Expert: Quality Matters! - Despite his frustrating car trouble, Robby Slaughter used his poor experience with a mechanical repair shop as a source of inspiration in a recent blog post. His message: “Quality matters!”  Read on »

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