The art of un-necessity

Simple or not?
I like simple and get most pleasure from those things which are refined to a minimal status without significant compromise to quality, performance or aesthetics.

As much as some of the obsession around the I-phone rather bores me, I absolutely admire the pure simplicity of the item.

I believe simplicity is at the heart of the green/ sustainable movement, this is simplicity re-framed, simplicity on steroids.

What is driving some of the green businesses I have read about is a small steps approach. This opened their ideas to possibilities (and waste) they had not previously seen.

In this short post I hope to prompt that rethink with my audience.

    • How do you monitor vehicle miles?
    • How many flights could be cut back by people staying over; getting more organised and visiting more customers, clients or suppliers?
    • How much of your paper is recycled – even if that is just printing on both sides – having trays just for drafts or casual printouts on lower grade recycled material? ( thinking of which why don’t we have budget home office printers with dual trays to allow this convenience?) [pullquote]And hard as it is, I try, I try, I try.[/pullquote]
    • What incentives do you have for your employees to use local transport, bike or walk to work? (An annual bus pass for every employee?)
    • Do you compost/worm bin food scraps at work?
    • What do you do to discourage convenience food waste like coffee cups, plastic bottles and disposable containers etc.?
    • How much packaging from suppliers could be eliminated or returned?
    • How much do you over-pack your products? Cereal manufacturers take note. (If I recall correctly minimum surface area for a given volume is achieved when Height=Diameter for a cylinder, and Height=Width for a box)
    • What are your customers doing with the waste you generate for them? What impact on them if you offered to collect it?
    • What benefits would you get if your customers saw you were doing your bit?

Let’s embrace some new ways – like my colleagues who didn’t even look sideways when I attended a meeting in my cycle shorts and jacket two days ago.

And another question looms –“ What do we need, really?” . What is necessity?

    • A new phone?
    • A new car or even bigger 4WD?
    • A bigger television?
    • More office space?

Waste occurs every time we generate or produce something, every time we use something, every time we don’t fully use something and every time we get something we don’t need.

And hard as it is, I try, I try, I try.

And it feels great.

For more information visit here to download a paper on current initiatives around the world
and here to see some of what is happening here in NZ.

Global Warming – the wrong argument

Franz Josef Glacier, NZ
For a ‘greenie’ I am incredibly unsupportive of the global warming movement and ETS etc.


Simply because I feel it is the wrong argument.

As any ethicist or theoretician will tell you – it is easier to prove what exists than what doesn’t. The proof of the cause of global warming will always be elusive despite the slick presentations of Al Gore and others -there are just too many variables.

For my mind the campaign should be based on two things we can prove:

• As a race we use and engage in a lot of stuff we don’t need to, and

• The resources we consume to produce those goods or services are not used wisely

The current ploys are based largely on fear and bludgeoning, not very 21st century at all.

How much more progress would we make if the focus was on educating people about proper use and alternatives, and educating industry about production and scarcity? No one could argue with either platform, and the academics might be engaged in practical science rather than speculation in the guise of science. Further this would mean we don’t automatically penalise emerging economies and create artificial and somewhat cynical trade barriers.

Of course Global Warming is not alone in this. We often find ourselves campaigning on the wrong road because we didn’t check the alternatives, or we just did what everyone else seemed to be doing. James Surowiecki’s book the The Wisdom of Crowds provides great insight to this phenomenon.

How can we avoid the trap of the wrong argument?

Clearly there will be many alternatives but some thoughts to get you started:

  • If the program isn’t paying dividends go back to the drawing board.
  • If the solution isn’t obvious, maybe you’ve asked the wrong question.
  • If your staff turnover is high, I’ll tell you now it is not the staff who are at fault.
  • Do you cut costs or increase revenue? (The answer is both but many try to only cut costs).

    Check your reasoning and make sure you’re having the right arguments.

Less is More

Starting with a cliché may not seem like a great place to start but I’m not always one for convention.

Reviewing contemporary management systems it occurs to me one of the key messages keeps getting lost – the end goal is less not more:

  • Less waste
  • Fewer steps
  • Less rework
  • Fewer errors
  • Less intervention
  • Fewer ‘things’ to keep an eye on

A healthy system: looks after itself; responds in time; adapts as necessary; looks ahead; learns and understands what is critical to its survival.

Our businesses won’t thrive when they are weighed down with protective systems which shift responsibility and cover so much risk that the main risk is the system itself.  ISO often led to systems defeating the very purpose they were meant to serve – to drive fewer errors, greater reliability, and greater customer assurance.

Hard work is constantly playing catch-up and getting worn down.

Great work is working hard on what really matters.

The talk now, as through the 90’s with the more enlightened, is about Lean principles. Lean is great and the rigour of Six Sigma has plenty to offer. Unfortunately it seems too few are applying these methodologies, which are hardly new.Why?

Have businesses lost sight of the critical few and been caught out by celebrating the manly pursuits of huge quality manuals, board papers and mind boggling financial reports?

How Lean is your organisation?

What could go today?

Who’s leading the charge?

Where is collaboration?

And if this isn’t happening is it because they’ve taken the easy way out – the notion that more is easier, despite all the evidence that less is more?

Will the recent financial crisis lead to even more cumbersome systems?

And the kicker! How does this impact on the way we manage?

Thoughts anyone?