Protect the (Human) Machine

Today, I'm going to suggest that you are wasting your resources. Give this some consideration and you can get more done at work, at home and everywhere in between.

Let's say you are a plant manager, for a large manufacturing facility (just bear with me, even if you have never stepped foot into a factory). You have a piece of equipment, purchased recently or maybe even decades ago, that would cost well over $1 million to replace. Would you maintain it?

Now let's say you are director of a corporate IT department, charged with providing laptops, tablets and smartphones to the workforce. You're also responsible for the software it takes to be productive. Would you invest in resources – like a help desk, software upgrades, or a device-replacement policy – to make sure these appliances remain functional?

Now let's say you are a manager of people. You could be a CEO or other corporate officer, you could be the leader of a team of 10 mid-level resources, or even the floor supervisor of a team of factory workers or call center employees. Should you invest time and effort to maintain these resources?

Now let's just say that you are a typical adult. You have responsibilities to finance, like your home, your car, your family. You have just one life to live, just one body to carry you around. Should you think about how to keep that life and body productive?

In each case, there could be millions of dollars at stake. A piece of equipment has roughly the same cost as roughly 750 fully-loaded laptops, which has the same cost as 10-20 mid-to low-level employees. Even more "expensive", your body/life is a priceless, irreplaceable resource.

When I worked as a manufacturing consultant, I sometimes used a humorous rallying cry: "Protect the machine!" It meant a few different things, depending on the circumstances, but generally indicated that you needed to try to make sure the most expensive or mission-critical parts of your process were as productive as possible.

By a wide margin, labor costs are the highest expense on the income statement of many, many companies. Studies show that humans work better when they are well-rested, provided with challenging work over which they have some authority, and not disgruntled about their pay or working conditions. Workplace politics and gossip sap the time and energy of workers, as does a lack of job security, and a lack of clear expectations and communications.

So what are you doing to protect the human machine?

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