I know, it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’, but these 3 words and the concepts behind them could be just as huge, albeit in a very different sphere of human endeavour.

In my last blog, I started talking ‘lean’ and discussing how lean thinking could be applied to the business environment, and I said that there were 8 generally accepted wastes (7 original wastes + a new one) of which we looked at overproduction. In lean circles, those 8 wastes are collectively known as

Muda – which is a Japanese word that roughly translates to ‘waste’.
Mura is known as the ‘waste of unevenness’, and
Muri, the subject for today, is the ‘waste of overburden’.

One of my annoying little habits (apparently I have many) when I want to have a bit of fun when going through a door way is to say to the person that I am with ‘after you…’ and then as they step forward, I step forward too – obviously we don’t both fit and so we jam in the door way. Well, I thought it was funny.

But the point is we didn’t both fit. The door way is designed to let one person through very efficiently, and 10s of people can get through very quickly if they go one behind the other. But, if you mess with that simple truth, you get stuck and grind to a halt.

This simple example is central to lean thinking and making processes and the work we do flow smoothly. Let’s develop the idea a bit more. Take a 2 or 3-lane road. You can send cars down that road and they will comfortably all do 100km/hr. As you put more and more cars on the road, they all start slowing down (for various reasons – which will be the subject of another blog) till eventually they all grind to a halt. The whole thing becomes jammed and no cars get through. You could even put some more cars in there to fill in a few of the spaces and really clog up the road up, but nobody ain’t going nowhere.

Now think back to your work place; where do you do this? Do you ever feel that you are mentally grinding to a halt? You have just the one working day and yet you try to cram as much into it as possible. Do you have a to-do list (or probably several of them, as earlier versions have just become meaningless) that just gets longer and longer and then you try to fill up every minute of your calendar with tasks in a vain attempt to get through it all. This is Muri – the waste of your day that comes just through being overburdened.

So what to do about it? In previous blogs I wrote about slowing down to go faster, doing less to achieve more; well, this is that same principle. It’s great that you can see all the things that you have to do in your to-do list – so prioritise them: urgent / important – target dates / who will be upset if it’s not done etc. Then accept that you can only do a very small number of things at once; what ever you think, you are only human!   Take one, two or three items from your to-do list and put them in a ‘doing’ list. And do these. One at a time, and in complete isolation – have a burst of effort on one (don’t get distracted by anyone or anything), give yourself permission not to be worried by the huge list of other things you have to do. Then have a break, chat, do some e-mail, have a coffee, then get back to your task. Drive the task to completion till it’s done and handed off. Then start on the next. You will get through far more work and do it better. It does feel counterintuitive; that’s why we naturally clog up roads. It’s important to put your completed task in a ‘done’ list; your brain does like to see closure – so allow it to gloat a while.

Keep the work flowing – it’s not about cramming as much as possible into your calendar. Don’t overburden yourself.