After 20 years of promoting Multi-tasking as a must have skill, America has dumped it in trash. In their everlasting quest to innovate and invent, researchers are now saying that multi-tasking is a myth, it slows people down and make them error prone.
If you have missed my blog, I am taking a company sponsored Lean Business Processes course and their prophesy is NOT to multi-task. I just couldn’t stop blurting out almost puking “Excuse me America, it took you 20 years to figure that out.”. I feel betrayed. If I was one of those people who don’t pass a chance to sue anyone for anything I would sure sue America for making me a multi-tasker to the power 100. I told the instructor that in one of my interviews in the 90s in Long Island New York I was asked how you would make your work efficient. I replied that I am very focused and would do my best to finish the task. My interviewer frowned and almost hissed “Focus”??? That means you can’t do two things at the same time. We want people who could multi-task. Of course I didn’t get that job. That was my first exposure to the word multitasking because prior to that I was usually praised for my focus. I came to realize that the term “prioritize and multitask” are the must haves in a resume. And in my nauseating habit of taking things too seriously, being a new American I mastered my multitasking skills to the extent that I would raise kids, work full time, cook, clean, drive, teach Quran to my kids, help them with homework, go to school myself etc etc all at the same time. In the 90s multi-tasking was the mantra and I hummed it to perfection. And now 20 years later they tell me that multitasking is bad. Too late America, harm is already done. Now FOCUS is the new mantra and I am supposed to master focus, a skill that I have long forgotten in favor of ADHD. Yes sure, I would focus if my ADHD lets me!
10 years ago six sigma principles were all the hype and now redundant. First we spent millions learning it from the Japanese, Toyota to be precise and then realized that American worker is not the same as Japanese worker. So the same six sigma rules and system that works for Japanese worker will not mean much to the American worker. Alright so we move on to LEAN BP.
Don’t give up on me yet. This is not a boring corporate column. Here are some other fun things that have happened in the class. In the intro session all participants were asked to tell their name, title, how did they hear about the course, and what’s their favorite food. When my turn came I said “of course my fav food is the Pakistani food and You all should try tandoori and grill items. You wont be disappointed.” Two days later the instructor still seems to be afraid for his life walking into a Pakistani restaurant. I am just joking but here is a little complement to share with you by our intern from Chicago who we only introduced to one Pakistani restaurant to and then he explored many on his own. He said he came to Texas hoping to try out some famous Texan BBQ but Pakistani BBQ turned out to be his most favorite. He said America needs to step up its game and learn from Pakistanis to make BBQ…LOL. Greg Harrison, if you are reading this, know that your words gave me the confidence to invite the instructor or facilitator (as they are called now) to a Pakistani restaurant.
Another fun thing is that the instructor was referring to manual food alarms (tomatoes and egg timers) of yester years and then asked me “What timer did you use in Pakistan” to which I said “I never cooked in Pakistan. My maid did” While the class was still laughing I added “And then I came to America and became a maid myself”. Isnt it true my friends? There you go. Again in my ever dwindling pendulum I am swinging between America and Pakistan. Should I continue to be a maid here or should I go back and hire one who can cook, clean, and perhaps drive me too. That would be a very multitasking maid then. But wait, we just have been taught that multitasking is counter-productive. Now I am all confused.
Driving back from the class when I was stuck in traffic jam because of a bad accident I dialed my coworker and talked to her for 20 minutes about the next project to work on. And as soon as I finished the call I was asking myself “Were you just multitasking. That is not so efficient”. Hey I have been practicing the mantra you taught me for 20 years now. And after so long, instead of rewarding me you reprimand me. I wonder how long will it take to wipe out the slate and engrave it with the new mantra LEAN!
The good thing about the training classes is that most stuff stays within those four walls. It’s a wonderful world where all the rules work but as soon as you go out and start practicing them in the real world people get upset. If you don’t believe me, next time when your boss asks you to do something tell them you simply can’t until you finish the task at hand. I am just curious as to what they say.
Happy leaning everyone. Stop multitasking and prioritizing. Just lean but please don’t lean on me.