“So the plan wasn’t a clusterfuck, it was just circling the clusterfuck target zone, getting ready to come in for a landing.”
Martha Wells


“It is optionality that makes things work & grow.”



“Life is a series of progressive integrations or a ceaseless interweaving; ideas and experiences are woven into the tissue of my life and so cannot be tested empirically

or discarded since they have become part of us.”

Mary Parker Follett


I almost called this Just-in-Time-Everything. I am old enough to remember the times before JIT (just in time) where “in time” simply meant “high quality”. Yeah. Sometimes things were a bit later than planned, but the shit done was good shit. But now we seemed to have squeezed everything, not just inventory & supply chains, that business is constantly circling the clusterfuck zone.

Anyway. 99% of business people know who Frederick Taylor is – ‘the father of efficiency’ <albeit I wish more people knew who Lillian Gilbreth was because she put the screws to ‘human machinery’ productivity>. That was just the beginning. While purists will groan, Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, Just-in-Time inventory, six sigma and Lean which to me are all derivatives of the same thing – Taylorism of process – piled on top of human Taylorism.

Ponder for a moment as you view the larger business world. Simplistically, JIT is “supply components and subassemblies in exact quantities, delivery times, and quality. Shipments are made within narrow time windows that are rigidly enforced. Virtually every component must be delivered on time and be within specifications”. Well, as a generalization, that’s business these days.

Business has simply become a continuous process improvement program designed to improve a company’s operations management chain and improve the quality of the outputs of the processes where people are simply the managers of this process (increasingly augmented by technology).

Which leads me to ‘waste’.

Just-in-Time has a mantra to eliminate all waste in the supply chain because ‘waste’, or excess of any kind, is anything that does not add value. Okay. It doesn’t really, it’s just that efficiency narrowminded leaders believed zeroing out everything maximized margins <optimized profit>. And I imagine, theoretically, they were correct. The issue is the exact same issue as ‘flow’. Flow is never a constant state, it’s a contextual time constrained state. So, seeking a 100% flow state is not only a fool’s errand but counterproductive in that it actually drains energy. A narrow-minded JIT is exactly the same. It drains opportunities from the business (and people). The truth is that business sees waste in anything that does not linearly create ROI – this includes ‘downtime.’ I imagine my larger point here is that the reason we constantly circle the clusterfuck zone is because business believes if it cannot be measured it is likely to be waste.

Which leads me to ‘slack.’

I purposefully used slack because when it comes to people when we see ‘downtime’ business sees ‘slacking off.’ But let me address that by using tangible slack in terms of inventory. Time and time again we seem to have to relearn that someone has to have some inventory somewhere in the supply chain. Yeah. This includes energy and time. I know I am right on this and let me tell you how you will know. Mindfulness. Mindfulness is business’s way to make tangible the intangible downtime. Business will bend over backwards to suggest “everyone needs a mental break” and then set up programs for people to sign up for and times can be designated for and, well, all of a sudden all those ‘mental breaks’ have become measured <which business leadership will assess over & over again seeking out ROIs>. I would argue all of this, having bled into, well, everything associated with business, has led us to the point where now we always seem to be circling the clusterfuck zone.

Which leads me to sculptors.

This zone can possibly be explained through this comparison of sculptors.

Michelangelo said “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” His work is possibly the greatest example of Occam’s Razor – stripping the inessential to highlight the essential (just enough to create the most). And then there was Giacometti who always used to begin with a huge piece of stone. Then he’d work and work, refining and smoothing and chipping away at anything offensive to him anything that he felt wasn’t right. Sometimes he did so much refining there was nothing left. The sculpture disappeared completely. All he had left was dust. This is JIT for everything in a business.

This leads to ‘limited good’, or worse, poverty of potential. Pick your metaphorical poison. Resources exist in insufficient quantities to fulfill maximum needs against potential opportunities. It means the system itself, the business, is constantly struggling against competing efficiency standards which makes the true wins few and far between (but revered). It makes the worship of ‘doing the most with the least’ a religion. I would also suggest it creates a culture of frustration.

Which leads me to something a social philosopher (I think Marvin Harris) suggested – the economy has no Surplus. The idea here is that business has no objective existence other than the institutional wants, i.e., what a business desires not what people need. it’s not the priority or function of business to meet people’s livelihoods but rather their profits. This is to say society’s economic destiny is not really linked to production, but rather the business dynamics imposed upon the everyday household economy. In other words, overproduction only occurs when business misjudges what is in their best interest – not everyday people. I imagine what I am saying is that business, choicefully, applies Six Sigma/lean/JIT principles TO the economy, therefore, even the economy is circling the clusterfuck zone.


When we circle the clusterfuck zone we are actually circling the concept of inessential motion. JIT grounded itself in inessential movement <do not move things unless they will be used>. Business has simply grounded itself in eliminating inessential <without really defining what is essential other than some output objective>.

The problem is that almost everyone wants to ‘force’ efficiency <rather than have it occur naturally> so everyone squeezes down on the system. Now. When it works well, its great. Uhm. When did everything always work well? <that was a rhetorical question>

As you ponder the rhetorical question, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the consequence of forced inefficiency ‘not working well’ is not a symmetrical response, it’s a combinatorial or exponentially bad consequence. At its worst it is a complete failure of the system, at its best it’s, well, a partial failure of the system. By the way neither of those two things are good.

In the end.

Business may not actually be in the clusterfuck zone, but it is constantly circling it. There is no slack, there is no inventory, there is no surplus of anything. Business has squeezed out the extra room in which extra ideas and potential occur. That isn’t to say that those things don’t ever occur, they are simply occurring within a system which ‘limits the good.’ And that is where I will end. Constantly circling the clusterfuck zone means limiting the good and a poverty of potential. None of that sounds good. Ponder.

Written by Bruce