Why Outlook Needs Industrial Engineering

crack-s_crevice.jpgIt just struck me that the basis for almost all the thinking I have done on this blog lies in the fact that I was trained as  an operations researcher / industrial engineer (OR&IE).

As OR&IE’s know, there is no training in time management at the  majority of schools of higher learning, perhaps due to the fact  that most of what’s taught is academia is about learning to think,  rather than do.

In fact, the field of time management belongs to no discipline that I can readily discern.  It falls neatly into a huge crack  between engineering schools, business schools and now schools for  IT.

I suspect that the reason this is the case is because anyone who claims to be an expert in time management would have to demonstrate  superior time management skills.  In the real world, this is  obvious, but in academia, it’s deemed to be irrelevant.

The few studies I have seen might be useful to someone who is  seeking to complete a PhD, but they are useless in helping  someone who is actually interested in improving their skills.   Part of this comes from the distance that academics try to  maintain between themselves and the subjects they are  studying.

In the real world, however, every single human being has a time  management system of their own, including the researcher. The one  who stands out and claims a breakthrough in this area should be  prepared to demonstrate that their research results are being  applied in their own life to good effect.  Otherwise, their  findings are likely to be ignored.

Frankly, it’s a lot easier to study a factory or distribution system, where it’s simply a lot less risky.

The fact that this is one field that blurs the neat distance that scientists like to keep from their subjects keeps it from being studied, in my opinion.

Also, the academics I have met and worked with seem fond of idiosyncratic and unproductive habits.  One professor I had at Cornell who taught optimization liked to pretend he was not in his office during office hours, for example.  I’m not sure what was being optimized…

I imagine that he would also complain that he didn’t have enough  time just like the rest of us!

Unfortunately,the lack of proper research has left us with some  gaping holes in our current understanding of time management, and  a lack of common definitions and basis of measurement.

Having said that, I had a lucky insight helped me to come up with  the 11 fundamentals.   So far, I haven’t seen it repeated in  too many other place, but from an OR&IE point of view, I now  see it as a foundation unit of understanding.

From the outset, industrial engineers and operations researchers  are taught to think in terms of factories and widgets.  In time  management, and here in 2Time, I   discovered that it was useful for me to think in terms of  “time demands.”

An Analogy In a manufacturing process, raw materials are provided as input  to a process of some kind, and they are acted on by machines,  transport mechanisms and other physical objects so that they are  transformed into some kind of output.

In time management, time demands are created by a user’s commitments.  Once created, they are then transformed by  the fundamentals to produce a very different kind of result —  peace of mind.

Microsoft and other software companies interested in creating time management systems would do we to place industrial engineers   and operations researchers alongside software developers, business- people and psychologists to work on the next generation of time management tools. They’d just need  to be careful to arm them with the right distinctions, so that they could be effective.