20 Percent Slack Equals 200 Percent More Work!

Abby is creating a design for a Client’s Website.

She enthusiastically sits down to work at 7 am. By 9, she has drafted a brilliant design that she knows the client will like. She decides to submit the work to the Client by 5 pm, and then leave for home.

As 5 pm approaches, Abby realizes that she still needs another two hours. She does not want the work to spill over to the next day. So she speeds up!

And that is when the 20% Slack kicks in!

  • In her hurry, she forgets to refer some scribbled points which the Client had shared.
  • She hurriedly selects a hero image that she is not quite happy with and then she hurries through the footer details, making minor placement errors.
  • Grammatical errors creep into her work.
  • She forgets to add a social media link.

Abby emails the completed work to the Client Lead by 5:30 pm, and then heads for home. She feels vaguely unsatisfied, but she quells the niggle. She got the work done, didn’t she?

The next day, she is taken aback when the client calls back thoroughly frustrated:    

  • He likes the design, but is completely distracted by the minor mistakes and omissions. He takes 15 minutes over the phone to express his anguish and requests for another meeting. At the meeting, the Client takes an hour to emphasize the need for attention to detail. He requests for a very quick turn-around as his timeline is already overshot!
  • Abby is compelled to drop her current planned work and get back to the Website design. She makes the corrections. Then she spends extra time double-checking everything. She does not want to invite the client’s wrath again. The next day, she emails the work.
  • The Client is doubly critical and goes over everything with a tooth comb before confirming his satisfaction.
  • 2 days, or almost 200% more effort is spent in recovering from the 2 hours of slack which was allowed to creep into the work!
  • This overflow does not factor in the ripple-effects on Abby’s the Client’s follow-on work and outcomes!
  • For a more complex task, this ripple-effect could be much larger.

Are we convinced now that slack can be devastating to efficiency?

What is Slack?

Why does it occur?

How do we prevent it from creeping in?

Slack equals to more work

Slack is the “looseness” and unwanted minor errors that one allows into any work. It is like slackening your grip on the rope during a Rope-Pulling competition. It takes a millisecond to slacken your grip but it takes tens of times the effort to regain the original spot, let alone win the competition!

Slack could be due to many reasons:

  • Fatigue;
  • Loss of interest;
  • Plain carelessness; and most of all,
  • Treating minor details as unimportant, and not understanding the dangers of slack!

Slack leads to errors and omissions. Six sigma deals with avoiding these same errors. We are however not talking here of lack of knowledge or the absence of a process. The slacker knows that they are letting in errors. They ignore the knowledge and bypass the process. They just do not understand the magnitude of the problems created by slack!

Minor errors in any important task could lead to major consequences.

It is therefore important to prevent slack from creeping in. And how do we do that?

It is very simple.

  • Take a break!

Do not push yourself too hard. Do not set unrealistic targets, or push your energies or interest beyond their limits.

Take a little break, regain the lost enthusiasm and then get back to work. It might cost you 20% more time, but it will save you from the hundreds and thousands of percent of work overhead that you might create!

Sounds simple?

It is!

Sunil Prem

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