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tight tolerances

Tight Tolerances and the Unexpected

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What happens when a ball gets dropped or a customer changes the order?
Are you prepared to face the challenges of the unexpected? Tight tolerances make sense, until they don’t.

Some organizations and people are expecting the unexpected. Emergency rooms in hospitals, your local fire company, and even having an umbrella in your car on a sunny day.

Unexpected Happens

Workplaces today thrive on being lean. They thrive on just enough, just-in-time and metrics that constantly measure their efficiency. Any more than just enough or just in time is considered waste.

What happens when the unexpected happens?

Being incredibly lean is fantastic when everything works. Having a system that is efficient, can be monitored, and has very low waste is good, until something changes.

The overburdened wedding caterer has an oven and a refrigeration unit go down. The tire sales shop can’t fit another car in this week because they are booked full with annual inspections. The pizza shop suggests a one-hour wait for order pickup.

Tight Tolerances

When the tolerances are too tight, there is no room for extra, no room for a malfunction, and no tolerance for the unexpected.

Busy with a wait list may seem like a good problem. It may be, until a competitor gets a chance.

So tight that there is zero waste, zero defects, and zero rejected work is good until something in the system breaks.

A team so small, that every minute of every clocked hour is utilized perfectly works great until the customer changes the order or an employee gets ill.

It takes a long time and a lot of effort to earn good business.

What carries more risk? Room to spare or no room at all?


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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