Banana Muffins and Small Business Decisions

My wife made peanut butter and banana muffins the other day. It was the first time she tried her grandmother’s recipe. They were delicious. As I was cleaning up the muffin pans I found myself thinking about a better way to accomplish this less than enjoyable task.

The straightforward method is to clean the pans by hand scrubbing each muffin indent one by one. This is a tedious process. I could build a tool that would allow me to scrub, say 12, muffin indents at a time. The task at hand would then be about 1/12 of what it is now. But, the amount of time, money, and effort needed to build such a tool would exceed any noticeable benefits. We only make muffins a few times a year. And being 12 times as fast at cleaning the muffin pans wouldn’t make our home life better.

It seems to me that businesses have similar decisions and at this level tend to get pushed aside as they are considered on an individual basis and thus are not important enough to spend any time on them; there are always bigger problems to worry about.

In a business, as opposed to a home, the cost of such tasks can be calculated since everyone’s hourly wage is known. And if you add up all the similar decisions across a business that are being ignored, it may turn into something worth your attention. Granted not all problems of this nature would have the same solution. But these things become a capacity drain and decrease job enjoyment (which impacts productivity and retention). And one never knows what will come out of deciding to solve such problems: a solution that works beyond its intended use, more ideas generated as a result of staff working together, or real collaboration.

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Author: Mark Cassar
Great businesses solve problems really well. And solving problems is what physicists do best. Mark has spent the last 20 years helping people understand and solve problems, in business and academia.