Batching or grouping like tasks together in Lean processes is discouraged. Why? Because often when we group tasks or batch them, we end up not finishing anything. I’ve seen this on more than one occasion in offices where someone started cleaning the supply closet. Everything got taken out but an interruption happened and it was never finished and thrown back helter skelter into the closet. Typically, a project like this would be better done shelf by shelf or drawer by drawer or one flow processing; not batching. To decide if you will be more productive batching or not batching, try it yourself. Now, here is the challenge, identify in your office and life what enhances productivity by batching or not batching.
How do you identify some of the tasks as to Batch or not to Batch? How about invoicing? Or newsletter? Or laundry? Or cooking?
Invoicing is a task that has historically been done near the end of the month by many businesses and is expected from our credit card companies. But when you really think about it, the credit card invoice is really a statement – an on-going monthly report that says what was added, what was paid and what is now expected. Many small businesses have accounts that are project based – the project is proposed, accepted, fulfilled and completed. Think about a handyman – an invoice is usually given and payment expected at completion. A good model for not batching.
Newsletter production or any mailing is usually batched, but like the supply closet, if an interruption happens, nothing is complete. Think how stuffing one greeting card, attaching the address and applying the postage would result in at least one being complete.
Laundry is one project that nicely lends itself to batching because of like colors and with today’s energy and water efficient machines, doing smaller loads more frequently is not a problem.
Cooking. Sometimes I have gone to a “make and take party” where I, with some friends, create three or four meals that we then deliver home, freeze and have available as needed. Yes, it is batching, but it is also fun – girls night out with a future time saving outcome. Guys, when was the last time you had a “Buds night out” that resulted in three meals in the freezer? On the flip side, JTI or just in time cooking is when I stop at the story and get some great already prepared food, think roast chicken, add a salad, throw a couple potatoes in the microwave and in no time at all, dinner is served.
To Batch or not to Batch is never a simple answer, but taking the time to assess the situation before the project is started can often save time and get the closet clean!
Next time you identify a closet/room/work space that needs a facelift, timeline the project and maybe you will find that one drawer a day will be the way. Happy Batching or Not!