‘The Latte Factor’ is a term used by financial author David Bach to describe the tiny expenditures we make, frequently and without thought, on things that don’t add value. These add up! If we saved or invested the small amounts we pay for our daily coffee, says Bach, we could be wealthier. It brings to mind the saying about the man who moves a mountain but begins by carrying very small stones.
I’ve been reading this week about ‘Micro-actions’ – small, actionable, easy to do things that we have the resource and ability to complete. Succeeding at these can lead to succeeding at bigger things, and then even bigger things. Breaking down big tasks into smaller actions makes them less overwhelming, and there’s no doubt that ticking things off the to-do list is a buzz!
And who doesn’t love a life hack or two? The tips, tricks and shortcuts that make life easier by increasing productivity and efficiency, the internet is full of them.
This is what continuous improvement is all about. Processes, products and services can be improved gradually through small changes, or through bigger ‘breakthrough’ efforts. Sometimes small changes are enough to make a big difference. Trusting those that know the processes, products or services, empowering people to make changes, delivering small improvements and doing lots of them is key.
Like the daily spend on latte, the small improvements can add up to significant productivity gains. These should be easy to implement since the solutions have come from the team members themselves, they aren’t likely to require any investment, and as with micro-actions, the successes achieved encourage more improvement actions and so on.
As Mark Twain said, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection”. What are the things you do that you think could be quicker or easier? What are the things that don’t add value? What can you do today to make work easier for you, your team, your manager, your customers? How can these problems be broken down into actionable items for us to tackle? What difference would achieving these actions make?
Of course, in certain situations a project approach is required rather than a ‘just do it’, and root causes of our issues may need to be handled systematically…but a bit of pragmatism goes a long way. Don’t forget the old joke about the note the Pragmatist left for his friends, “Dear Optimist, Pessimist and Realist, while you guys were arguing about the glass of water, I drank it!”.
So, small can be beautiful, pragmatism can be better than perfection, and lattes can be…expensive. Better make mine an espresso.
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