The Dangers of Waiting Waste, Revisited

Train Station Clock. This image is CC0!

Some time ago, a friend of our neighbor turned 72 and ordered a very big recreational vehicle. It would have cost 160’000€, but before it was delivered the doctors discouvered a vicious type of cancer. He cancelled the order and lost ab fourth of the price. Three weeks later, he was dead.

Imagine, what he could have done with all that money if he had spent it earlier. Even if we assume that due to a lack of investment it might have been only half of it (80’000€), that would mean:

  • one or two trips around the world,
  • between 40 and 80 weeks of vacation, for example with a rented recreational vehicle,
  • buy a smaller but still ridiculously large RV.

What is the reason for waiting so long? This man committed monthly for an event that was far in the future. In terms of Lean Procrastination (have a look at this early draft of Olaf Lewitz’s book) that was an extremely early commitment.

This is my short summary of Olaf’s concept:

After telling that waiting is waste repeatedly, Lean Procrastination may sound contradictory. But the RV example shows two types of waiting. Obviuously, waiting for a dream until retirement can be wasteful waiting. Secondly, when you save that much money for a long time you commit to a dream far in the future. The time span between commitment and decision is short, while the time after the commitment is long. That is the waiting waste in the story.

Let’s look at another example. Suppose the weather forecast says it will rain. You decide to take an umbrella with you the next morning. When you leave your home you commit to that decision by the act of picking the umbrella at the door. You do not take it to bed in the evening.

The time between a decision and committing to it by action is not waiting, if the commitment is early enough in the end. It is just time during which you can do other things and revise your decision. The latter may come in handy when outside factors change.

The time between a commitment and its effects becoming visible is waiting waste. Reducing that waste is the essence of Lean Procrastination for me.

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