It happens way too often. Folks who are ostensibly conducting time observations frequently:

          • don’t appreciate the full importance of the exercise,
          • are not properly trained in how to conduct time observation methods (and the the related spaghetti charts, percent load charts and standard ops forms), and/or
          • are  just too lazy to do a thorough job.

The first two conditions are more straightforward in nature, the last, well…that’s a behavioral issue.  In any event, insufficient rigor will hamstring the effort to identify waste within a given process. A prior Gemba Tales post, Time Observations – 10 Common Mistakes, covers a lot of relevant ground here.

Lack of rigor and technical know-how can yield some very bad things – not the least of which are marginally useful time observations. This means that individuals and teams can come up with a stilted understanding of the studied process, miss or incorrectly identify the waste and opportunities, develop a less than least way post-kaizen future state standard work or…even worse, create new standard work that is going to go through tremendous adjustment during the PDCA process because it does not square with reality. Think “rework ” here.

So, what drives me absolutely crazy? Lazy observers! [By the way, here we assume that the time observation is worth doing in the first place (right scope, worthy target,  appropriate tool, etc.)]

We cannot be proponents of industrial tourism. Time observations require hard work and a good dose of stamina.

Hey, stopwatches are much more difficult to operate than one would think and breaking down the target process into the smallest observable elements is a pain in the neck. Observing multiple cycles, so necessary to getting a handle on variation (and thus opportunity), means more time on your feet, more writing and attention firmly directed on a process which may be as exciting as watching paint dry…in perhaps extreme heat, cold, noise, whatever. Following the operator or worker EVERYWHERE can also be a drag. And observing a process that has varied work content based upon different factors (such as warehouse picks from high bay versus low bay locations)  … can make it even more maddening.

My answer? Suck it up! Grind it out! Man-up (not really politically correct, but you know what I mean)!

It’s not that I am without empathy. I have personally conducted countless time observations of cycles that were many hours in duration, sported crazy variation and permutations, etc. It was at times, very, very painful. But, you really can’t get the proper insight into the waste and opportunities within a process without such a personal investment, and without going to the gemba. In fact, genchi genbutsu, “go and see for yourself” …and help facilitate that seeing with the rigorous application of a time observation form.

Don’t be a tourist! You owe an A-plus effort to yourself and most importantly, in the spirit of humility and respect for the individual, you owe it to the other stakeholders – the person(s) that you observe,  teammates, customer, etc. You must pragmatically conduct the best time observations you possibly can.

What do you think? Am I too demanding here?