Tea and Productivity

Several days ago, I walked down to city center on Saturday morning to get myself a little exercise in the weekend. When I walk, I like to pick new routes, so besides exercising, I could get a totally new refreshing perspective of the neighborhood where I cross. This time, I went through some roads and alleys that I have never had gone through before and in the middle of my walk, a store window caught my attention.

Through the store window, I could saw many kinds of teapots displayed behind the window. From outside the store, I could look into the store these big tubes contained tea leaves. My curiosity made me to enter the store to just find what this interesting store could offer me.

The Tea Palace

I entered the store and it is so wonderful that I really felt like I am in a library of tea. The store called Le Palais des Thes. First of all, when you entered, there will be various tea leaves that were ready to be smelled (you choose tea by smelling it!). These tea that come from China, Japan, Afrika, India and this is in fact only a glimpse of what this store could offered. Further back of the store, they have a whole lot many tea leaves, teapots and books about tea. Just what a person need to travel the world of tea.

From visiting this store, I could understand more about tea and decided to bring two distinct tea types from Afrika. From it, I also know that tea is beyond what traditionally be a medicine to increase condition of our health. For me, I mainly drink tea because it is refreshing in non-destructive way. The interesting part that lends itself to an increase in productivity is that compare to coffee, tea has more benefits.

Asian couple having coffee on home porch

First of all, I want to once again correct the assumption that caffeine in tea or coffee will help us during our work to be more productive by increasing alertness.

Peter Rogers, professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol, after years of studying caffeine, he sees no evidence to suggest that it improves mental alertness.

However, if we know the right time to drink tea or coffee, a good effect will be obtained.

Professor Andy Smith, an expert in occupational health psychology at Cardiff University said that Caffeine is rightly prized by workers for combating fatigue, with a 2002 study of US Navy Seals showing the drug’s ability to override severe sleep deprivation. What caffeine does is to get you back on form. “We use the term ‘restoration of function’. The effect of caffeine is to restore your function closer to normal,” he says.

Therefore, caffeine can still has contribution to our performance to help us when we have fatigue at work. Additionally, hot beverages have numerous advantages. Here is some facts about contribution of Hot beverage in our workplace whether it is office work or home office.

  • 61% of employees feel that their employees cares about their well-being if they provide good hot beverage options such as in office coffee and tea.
  • 43% reported experiencing a positive effect on their work productivity.
  • 90% of decision makers and 85% of employees believe that quality coffee and tea can contribute to increased productivity and morale.

Both tea and coffee are a complex drinks. However, Tea could give better contribution in many ways.

First of all, tea contains Theanine, which researchers argue has a relaxing effect and has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Secondly, Randy Murray blog in his article “Simple Productivity Task of The Day:Make A cup of Tea” really point out a benefit of tea psychologically. He ’ve found that the process of making tea is also soothing and ritualistic, which is good for helping him slow down and regain focus. To learn simple ritual of creating tea in your office your could see it below.

Just This from Dave Caolo on Vimeo.

Additionally, you can better awake when you drink a cup tea compare to drink a cup of coffee . Yes! It seems not true because every time we drink coffee we can get the effect of waking up instantly right? It is apparently true that coffee will give you more instant effect. However, it turns out that drinking tea will give us longer wake up time because the way caffeine works in tea is different than coffee. When drinking tea, caffeine inside the tea will slowly be absorbed by our body and this will lead to long consumption of caffeine for our body which will keep us awake for quite a longtime.

Hence, those three (3) simple benefits that I tried to highlight (reduce blood pressure, psychologically soothing due to it’s ritualistic nature and better works of caffeine) will give more than enough  for you incorporate tea to your daily productivity agenda.


Supermarket Stocktaking, Happiness in Working and a Lesson of Variation

I am considered myself as a kind of person who is so interested on listening more than speaking. For me, being able to listen to ideas, a glimpse of someone else’s life experiences or a feeling of someone about something is so inspiring. I can learn from the story and get an idea of things that I had not realize before because I just never thought it would be possible, never experienced it myself, or simply didn’t know that such a thing could exist. By listening more, I can open myself to the presumption world that I previously held  to a new perception of the world as I listen to the story of people around me.

This post is referring to my comment on my dialogue with one of my friends. He has an interesting experience in which I had not any experience on  being employed in the type of industry he was in. It was all begin in a totally normal day. After lunch, we had a normal afternoon chat that suddenly led to a story of his previous employment in Supermarket Industry. Due to my curiosity, I started to ask probing questions that led him to tell his own experience working in a supermarket with a role as an assistant store manager with most activities that deal with audits.

What caught my attention was when he talked about his experience in stock taking procedure and penalty that he did in his time (and I believe still many also have the same principles even until this time). He told me that in his company, stock deviation from the ideal value of difference between beginning of month and end of the month in comparison with actual reality value of difference between beginning of month and end of the month difference will be assigned to store employees. It means that, if beginning of month stock minus sold product in that month ( which this become ideal end of month stock) is not the same as actual counting at the end of month stock, then the difference between ideal and actual counting in the form of amount of money will be paid together by employees from their salary to substitute lost products .

When he told this, I quickly recalled a wise words from Dr.Deming. Then, I found the exact same story that happen in Deming’s book titled “Out of The Crisis” in 1982. Deming has already elaborated what is wrong with this kind of system setup and why management not only in manufacturing industry but in all industry, even government, education, and any systems that has management on top of it has to learn the knowledge of variation.

Stock counting at the end of the month, if deviated from the ideal amount, can cause from many factors. the accuracy of inventory system, security of store from thieves, logistics in store, and still many other factors. It is indeed easy to directly attributing lost of stocks to employees for replacing the money that lost with the assumption that all lost rooted in the negligence of employees to prevent it from lost without looking into details about the root cause. However, by doing this, it is also easy to get trap into a bad system where everyone is dissatisfied, work is stressful, and at the end surviving will be impossible if not very difficult without sacrificing employees.

Actor businesswoman express sadness isolated in white

Imagine a staff that start to work in a company with a good pride. He and the company both have an expectation on both sides. The employee starts with a willingness to contribute to the company maybe even thinking that this company that he will start to work will be even better, fun and fulfilling. It is also the same good expectation that come from the company that hired this employee, because after all resources available in company’s labor pool has been filtered, this man has the best fit with the company to help reaching for the company’s goal. The new employee is ready to grow with the company and contributing the best effort possible. Isn’t that exactly what we feel when we want to start working in a new company? Excited! Happy! Want to prove ourselves! and having better a time? Sadly, this man so shocked to find the fact that even though he begin his job by working as hard as he can with the will of contributing his maximum effort and with their own heart and soul trying to be nice to every customers coming to the shop, he finds himself at the end of the month getting paid with less salary than promised and that they ought to receive it due to stocks lost that they don’t have any ideas at all of  how it could be lost, why they have to be the one who take the risk of something they just don’t have any idea about, and the fact that he cannot improve or doing anything about it.

Drawing from the world of manufacturing, this could be seen as assigning defect of products to the workers that works in assembly line. Whenever there are defects, put the blame on workers with the reason that workers are the one who actually works assembling all parts into a product. This obsolete philosophy have proven to be a downfall of manufacturing industries before Japan could set the pace again and followed by a reparation to systems of managing manufacturing in other countries and companies.

People in management should as Deming urge long time ago and yet still valid, realize that there are two types of variation (natural/normal variation and assignable/special variation) Classifying defects in case of lost product in supermarket into these two kinds of variation classification will give us more insights. If a defect/lost product happen, manager should be able to determine if this will attributable to workers/store employees or to system that managed by management. The action directly blaming workers for a system problem then is not a wise act of management because normal variation and special variation should be handled in different ways. .To learn more about differentiating this, I would suggest reading “Out of The Crisis” or “The New Economics” by Deming.

Young business woman presenting colorful charts and diagrams

As we came to know that those defects or lost of products are caused by system, then improvement to a system could reduce the lost of product. In relation with supermarket system, let’s take one defect example of lost product. Previous assumption is that employees should watch closely everyone on the store so that no product is lost, but employees indeed can be forget or not paying attention to someone stealing because fatigue which so normal. What is not normal is to assign tasks that obviously normal people with normal capability cannot do and give them penalty for it.  In fact, lost product happen also because the environment provided thieves to steal some products despite of the hardworking that employees have done in preventing it. This environment setup is management job. A system should be setup by management to prevent lost from happening by creating a better environment for employees to work and a better system to prevent lost of products. Usual flow is that mistakes that management makes is attributed that should be management responsibilities (system design and improvement) are all assigned to employees.

Managing by Heart: What Leaders Should Learn from Toyota

Toyota has come into test by recall of its vehicle all around the world. From the lens of customers, recall means a bad action because it looks like Toyota has so many defects. In fact, not in all recall Toyota found defective parts. But why Toyota do recall that actually give a bad impression to customers?

For those who oversimplify business and looking only into short term action, this bad impression will persist. However, the actual reason of this recall is to better satisfy customer in the long term. I would not talk here about recall issues in specific, instead, the focus on the long term and the focus on the satisfaction of customers, even when the customers still do not know that the action will satisfy them in the long term because it disappoint them in the short term.


This ideal principal of Toyota is not only mere a tag line to make its company looks professional, but it is a living system that proves it consistency on focusing on satisfying customers in the long term.

This is the reason that Toyota is one of the leader in Automotive Industry. To be a leader, we have to focus on satisfying customers and on the other hand those who do not focus on satisfying customers in the long term will soon enough perish. This great ideal philosophy has been around us for decades.

In the Bible for example those who will be a leader has to be a servant.

Matthew 20:25-26
25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,

In addition, Scientifically, This term has been coined by experts to be called servant leadership.

Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that, together, enrich the lives of individuals, build better organizations and ultimately create a more just and caring world. A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

Pillar of Toyota which is Respect for People and the principle to contribute to society has make Toyota a serving leader among all Automotive companies. Additionally, this behavior of serving leader not only shown in the big area as a company but also reflected in the response of the CEO Akio Toyoda when storms face Toyota.

The video below shows how servant leadership of Akio Toyoda to many segment of communities.


This video declare his intention on being a servant companies to the public. Not enough doing this, he also made 2 additional steps to deliver the message to customers by doing apologize talk show in television and also making a TV commercial which will incur additional cost for Toyota.


Surprisingly, what many customers do not know is the truly profound act from Akio Toyoda that proves his quality as a Servant Leader. Instead of getting mad and talking about profit and losing money, he went to America team and greet the assembly workers. He also delivered a really deep gratitude to all his employee to support him in the difficult situation. He knew that he is a servant to a customer. but he also knew that he is a servant of his employees and therefore he is the leader.

The servant leader will says thank you to all who support him, but an ignorant leader will get mad to all his subordinate in order to get profit get into the company back. Ignorant leader will obviously get back the profit on the short term but not in the long term due to his ignorance to all employee that experience additional suffering in the crisis from their leader. But the servant leader will get back slowly but certain. The company not only will getting back on its foot, but all employee will go forward together because the culture of servant leader is embedded and spread inside the company with its CEO as a living guide. The effect is an enormous viral movement inside the company that makes everyone in the company to try hard to be a servant leader and in the end helping in serving customers and bring the company into number 1.


How hard it is to apply Lean in your company

Lean is basically the way Toyota does its business and operated. the term Lean Manufacturing is not coined by Toyota, but Toyota has a huge contribution to the spreading concept of lean.

Being success in Japan, Toyota next step is worldwide market. Thus, the challenge is in transferring what sustained Toyota as one of the leading automotive in Japan, to a larger target which is worldwide is a definite logical step.

With the aim of transferring the DNA of its company, the famous documents that stand behind the bestseller book of Toyota way by Jeffrey K liker is used. Toyota way 2001 came after the necessity to expand and the success of so called “experiment” of transferring the way Toyota does its business to GM plant in Freemont that actually in one way align with the social responsibility principal of Toyota and also prove that the Toyota way is totally transferable and proven. an important point is that even Toyota itself has realized that it is easier to make a greenfield project than to repair or transform the culture that has already existed.

Therefore, for new entrepreneur, it is best to build and grow a company with a Lean Enterprise thinking already injected in people rather than waiting for a new company to grow with the expense of a hard time educating, forming, and transferring the behavior, system, and mindset governing the company that will be a huge inertia of this transformation.


Living in Lean Culture: Seeing is Believing

I have remembered how I have been amazed by a discovery in my own country Indonesia. I have gone so long to my reflective side of me after I have witnessed things that I couldn’t imagine to be exist in my country. Considering about the status of my country which categorized as a developing countries and the experience that I have on visiting several factories, I have been startled by a visitation to a factory in which the culture of Lean is very apparent.

In April 2011, I accompanied colleague students of my University to have a field trip to the automotive manufacturer plant which handle the assembly of medium and low trucks. I have had an experience for six months of internship in a quite famous automotive manufacturer overseas in Germany. Therefore, I presumed that the plant that we were going to visit was not possible to have a better management and/or technology than in Germany.

By the time we got there, I verify my assumption with the fact. It turns out at the first sight this plant which located in my country have nothing extra worth to be noted as better when compared to the technology with what the Germans have. It was a very conventional plant. At the site, we gathered together to a short briefing and quickly we were divided into several group and being arranged into route of travel around factory.

We make a start to the first process and go until the latest process in the plant. The tour guide which happens to be the supervisor and a foreman assisting us and generously share their experience about the working procedure, process, and experience. The workers in some areas are very kindly and proudly explaining the things that they are responsible of. I was astonished after we have come to an end. It was amazing to be there that  day and I felt very fortunate to be there.

I saw that  lean management in the factory that actually work. In that moment I totally changed my paradigm when I see with my own eyes that there is a factory runs smoothly by using no automation and high-tech and rely on the management of lean. They are many of lean concept use to manage the system. By concept I didn’t mean just methodology, but people actions and the the artifact of boards that daily updated, and the acknowledgement of suggestion of workers for all factory members. Besides of the Japanese auditor from Japan that always came to the factory to maintain the performance, many interesting facts have surprised me.

Previously I am very disappointed with labor from my country. It is because in my view, labor in my country is lazy and unproductive. However, what I saw that day at the factory could really make me realize the power of Lean. Lean could changed people behavior and culture to the desired one. I felt really happy to be there.