Cut Costs: Go with the Flow Rather the Focus Only Locally

Sometimes the little things, the daily do's, are more interesting than we give them credit for. If we change our glasses and look at them, we can catch things that have much bigger implications.

Last night I was putting the dishes into the dish machine. It was about half full so I decided to wait until the next day to run the machine to cut costs and lower environmental impact, use less water, and pay less for electricity: makes sense? Maybe not if you go with the flow!

Next morning we were short on coffee cups and breakfast plates, so, wanting to be a good environmental citizen, I washed some by hand, rather than running the machine half full. By the time the machine was full, I had washed about a sink load of dishes, and the food residue on the plates ​required I run the machine on a normal cycle, rather than an energy saving cycle.

Cut costs locally and you can raise them overall​

From a cost point of view, there is no question I was doing the right thing; I was being a responsible cost manager. But from the point of view of managing the overall flow, I was a fool.

The rule of Flow is don't favor parts at the expense of the whole.

Is the point of running a house to use as little resources as you can, optimize the expenses of all the parts, or to optimize a life, to make the home cozy?

What happens when you leave dishes in the machine? Have you ever had to wash a glass or two by hand, maybe a plate because the glasses are all dirty, even though the machine isn't full? Washing dishes by hand, unless you are very careful, uses much more water, dish soap, more electricity to keep the hot water running, more time, and rarely can we stand the water at a temperature where it kills germs.​

And leaving the dishes until the machine is full means the food can cake on, so you have to do a regular wash, whereas when the dishes haven't sat overnight, you can often get away with washing on the light load, and with half the soap. 

Is it possible that by trying to SAVE with waiting for a full load I was actually wasting, not enlivening the home, and spending more as well? 

At work, do you have equipment you try and get the most use out of, feeling you are losing money, because the equipment cost a lot, and you are not "optimizing" your return on investment, like they teach you to do in a business school?

Do you wait to do things based on their immediate costs, without seeing how they affect the flow, the overall? A machine or a task is put in place not for its return on in​vestment, but for what it allows you to do that sells to real customers, in other words, go with the flow! In the home, and at work, and remember what you are there for.

About the Author

Dan Strongin works with medium to small companies, helping them master the art and science of managing.