Protons vs. Electrons


It's (relatively) easy to see waste on a production line. When you're dealing with physical things, you're dealing with protons. You can actually touch the defective products and measure the inventory pileup. When you're trafficking in information, you're dealing with electrons. It takes tremendous effort to see and measure the waste in an office process, because most of it resides in files stored on your computer and in your inbox.

My friend Karen Martin stresses to her clients the need to measure completeness and accuracy (%C&A) in their office processes. A process that is 100% C&A means that there are no errors. But it also means that there is no missing information. No misleading information. No ambiguity. No need to ask the upstream person any questions at all. 100% C&A means that when you get the file or the email, you know exactly what to do, how to do it, and when it's due by.

Think about that for a second. It sounds simple, but it's not. Total clarity in communication is a pretty damned high bar to jump over. In fact, our communications are generally so riddled with ambiguity and errors that we don't even recognize them. We just accept them as the normal course of business.

They're not. And just because electrons are smaller, lighter, and less expensive than protons doesn't make wasting them any more acceptable.

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