LEAN vs NEAT
The management and production techniques and principles grounding a Lean approach are popular among people trying to run big organizations, like factories or hospitals. Lean principles originally came to light at Toyota in the 1980s and turned that company around. Running and designing ‘lean’ has a lot to do with crafting efficiencies and streamlining wasteful areas. That is, its not so much about speeding up the flow of production as it is about removing waste in a manner that preserves value with less work. Today, the popularity of Lean is part and parcel of the trend toward sustainability. Efficiency, reduction of waste, and elegant solutions are all important elements for removing financial and material overruns from organizational processes, and have proven highly successful for some organizations.
Part of the irony of modern life, however, is that such innovations in efficiency that should ultimately improve quality of life, can come at a price for human health. We suffer from the sitting disease. Have you ever used an instant message to communicate with someone in the next room? Has an automated system ever replaced the need to physically look for something? Has a machine ever taken your manufacturing job and now you work behind a computer? It turns out that the amount of calories you expend on a daily basis doing normal kinds of things really adds up when it comes to staying slim and healthy. This phenomena is called NEAT — Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
According to James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, A desk-bound man or woman takes only 5,000 to 6,000 steps a day. That compares with about 18,000 steps a day for the average man and 14,000 for a woman in an Amish community. The average sedentary lifestyle prevents the burning of 1,500-2,400 calories per day. Thats about equal to 1-2 times the amount of calories needed to live at all, its like you could have fed a whole other person while you were just sitting there!
At this point in the post, you’re probably wondering what NEAT has to do with LEAN. Well, we could make our hallways longer or our work processes more manual, but this does not necessarily serve the triple bottom line, and is not always efficient for businesses in the modern world. So what to do? Architectural solutions to inactivity can help get people moving, as can technological incentives like Gruve. Now, we need to figure out how organizational techniques can promote such health-affirming daily steps while sustaining efficiency.
Are there ways for simple movements to somehow increase efficiency? Maybe our brains would be clearer for working if we took real lunch breaks, getting up from our desks and eating outside. Perhaps attending professional events that move us out of the office while teaching us more about our industries could help in the long run. Wed love to hear your thoughts on how to find the sweet spot between efficiency and activity in daily life.