How do you create value?

What value do you create in your company? How do you create it? These questions are at the start of my book, A Factory of One, and they're at the core of my workshop based on the book. In my experience, most people haven't taken the time to answer these questions, and as a result their days are filled with a whole lot of "busyness," but not as much value as they -- or their customers -- would like.

In a recent New York Times interview, Paul Bennett, the Chief Creative Officer at Ideo, said that

Until a year ago, I felt that I wasn’t fully able to perform my job as a kind of project leader for inspiration, because my time was not really my own. Like many people, I was hyper-scheduled, often in depressingly small chunks of time, at one meeting after another, with very little time in between. I remember one particular day when I had a different appointment or task every 10 minutes. My brain almost exploded.... [So] I started a ritual that I still use today: I sit down and look at my calendar every Sunday night, pore through my coming week’s meetings and cancel a bunch of them — redundant ones where I don’t need to be “in the loop,” ones where there is an opportunity for someone else to make a decision, ones that don’t particularly inspire me, or ones where I can’t really add value.

To stretch the meaning of 5S a bit, this sounds to me like "executive 5S." Bennett is sorting his commitments and setting his calendar in order. He's separating the wheat from the chaff, the value from the waste.

But doing this requires that you know what value you create and how you create it. In Bennett's case, he's realized that it's not by running from meeting to meeting, and being away from the flow of work in the office. Now, he says,

I try to spend about half my day at the help desk and the other half doing what I call “doctor’s rounds,” when I walk through the office and talk to people if they request it or if I feel that they are receptive to it. I now allow myself to be pulled, to drift in and out, and to be available for five-minute or two-hour interactions depending on what’s needed. Because of that, I feel as if I am part of a living, breathing organism, and responding to its needs rather than simply running from place to place with a calendar in my hand.

I'm probably the biggest advocate of "living in the calendar" in this community. I believe deeply that the calendar is a vital tool for allocating the scarce resource of time to the truly valuable commitments and demands on your time. But the calendar is a useful tool only insofar as you're able to identify how you create value.

Step back for a moment and think about it. How are you scheduling your days? What are you allocating your time to? How do you create value?

Special Note: Learn about Training Within Industry (TWI) and its role in the lean enterprise at the annual TWI Summit. The Summit is being held in Nashville, TN May 8-9, 2014 and is the annual gathering of world’s top TWI thought leaders and practitioners. Learn more at

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