Just in Time

Many moons ago, when I was a young college lad, I studied many things. Among them was economics. I spent many days and nights reading about various models, and eventually found great interest in the Japanese concept of just in time management.

The concept is simple. You stock just enough stuff to make products barely above your quota. When the needed parts are at a certain level, a signal or communication is sent to a supplier who then makes and ships more parts. The supplier also uses the same concept, asking for raw materials only when current materials are at a certain level.

There is no overstocking. There is minimal space for storage. There is virtually no waste.

In Japan, you can even see this at popular eateries. I use to frequent a place close to my office in Japan that would run out of food every night. I asked the owned about this once and he said, “I buy my food fresh everyday. I predict how much I need. I run out and then wait until the next day. I never serve old food, and I never waste any food.”

His space was small, but optimized for people and not storage. Cheaper rent, no waste, and a higher quality of food. Basically the opposite of Sams Club, Cosco, and those crazy people on EXTREME COUPONERS.

In my current position, I often have to provide training or support. Normally I develop videos and materials for topics that I am certain people will struggle with. However, I do not put these online for people until I know they are ready.

I wait for signals. I wait for a few people to ask me the same question in a short time-frame. Sometimes I watch for trends in tech-support tickets. Then when I feel like enough people are ready, the content becomes live. I do this because I have found:

  • Sending too much information is a waste. People tend to only want to learn in small doses when not enrolled in a program of some sort.
  • The needs that were predicted could shift, and the online content could become redundant.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention and motivation. The desire needs to be there before they will actually go through the full learning experience.

I would not say this is radical or controversial, but people do disagree with the approach. I have been told it seems unprofessional, and that I am not prepared (even though the materials are done weeks and sometimes months in advance). I think it is practical, and addresses the true nature of how busy people learn.

Additionally, I want people to be hungry for more and not overwhelmed by a lengthy list of pre-programmed topics.

Recently, I was part of a huge professional development day at my school. I was only doing tech support, the event was managed by someone else. He has ten very deep topics to explore. I mean really deep, things you need to ponder for a few days.

He had all the materials for all ten topics completed months ago. He has a website setup with all the topics organized. However, the week before the session, the only thing that was live was one topic only. That topic stayed live for a week, and then was used for the professional development.

The feedback collected from the participants was overwhelming positive. They stated clearly that they felt prepared and focused.

I did not influence this person at all. I did not give them a speech about doing things just in time. However, I when I realized that they had the option to be overwhelming and chose to be focused, and to use a week to build-up interest- I decided to write this post.

Maybe this will be my new soapbox.

Tony DePrato


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