In his book Sun Tzu and the art of business Mark McNeilly talks about how important the idea of set up time is to the military.
There isn’t much point if you ask for air support or artillery support in the middle of a firefight and it turns up a few hours later.
As a result, the military focus on getting into position fast and getting started. A trained artillery battery can move its guns and start firing at a different position in six minutes.
If you think of an operation – something you need to do as having a start and finish point, the time it takes to get from the beginning to end is the cycle time.
The set up time is how long it takes you to change from what you are currently doing to the new thing you need to do once you start.
In manufacturing processes, it is now understood that reducing set up times is important because it lets you respond to customers faster and reduce the assets you have to use.
In actual time, the set up time may only account for 5 or 10% of the total time, but it has a huge impact on how effective the rest of the process is – and the experience your customer has of working with you.
How many times have you asked for something to be done and its taken days before the request starts to work its way through various layers and eventually reaches someone’s desk who is going to actually do something with it?
Perhaps focusing on set up times for knowledge based organisations could be the best thing they could do to dramatically improve their responsiveness and customer satisfaction.