Is GTD a Lean System?AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
The term “lean” first appeared in the 1990 book The Machine That Changed the World, by James Womack and Daniel Jones, from a thorough study by MIT on the automobile industry. That term was coined to define the manufacturing process in Toyota, which tried to create the largest possible value with minimal resources, as opposed to the management behavior of other major producers such as General Motors, in which wasting resources was pretty common.
Today, lean is used to describe any process that is agile and efficient. In recent years the term “lean” has arrived to a variety of fields, from health care to any kind of public service. It has become a philosophy, a way of thinking, a culture. It’s about doing things smarter, eliminating the waste of resources. And that makes a lot of sense in a time when the economic situation does not invite to splurge.
Two examples that I know well. The Lean Startup method urges to create businesses and launch new products through a very efficient use of available resources in environments of high uncertainty, investing only in what actually allows the company to grow. Lean Software Development is a software development philosophy based on principles that seek to eliminate the unnecessary stuff and create an environment in which decisions are made as late as possible and, in turn, we are able to react to changes as quickly as possible. This way, when we have verifiable facts and not just assumptions, decision-making is much more accurate, the use of time and money is tighter and the odds of success are much greater.
Look at the principles and values of the Lean philosophy: Be more efficient, work smarter, do more with less, focus on what really matters, eliminate what does not produce value, avoid wasting time and resources… There seems to be some parallels with GTD, right?
I think GTD fits what you might call a Lean personal organization system. Just as Lean thinking seeks increased productivity and quality in organizational environments, the goal of GTD is higher personal productivity and better life quality.
In Lean thinking, this objective is achieved by first establishing a purpose and vision on how to create value, and then defining a process with the necessary steps to produce that value repeatedly and consistently.
In GTD, processes such as the 2-minute rule, selecting tasks that are under the same context, or the “Someday/Maybe” list—on which we store things that should not interfere with our current reality—help eliminate waste and optimize resources. Perspective levels allow you to pull the most important tasks at the moment and focus on what matters. And the five stages workflow is a streamlined process that takes you to achieve your goals efficiently.
What do you think? Is GTD a Lean method?