Slack in a System: Good or Bad?

I like to optimize things. I am always looking for a way to do things more efficiently. I try to eliminate slack from the system. I admire businesses that find ways to make things more efficient. One reason I like Apple products is how seamlessly they work together.

Covid brought about some new learnings. Slack in a system isn't always inefficient, sometimes the slack is the efficiency. Just think about supply chains. In order to provide goods at the lowest possible price, supply chains created incredibly complex and efficient systems that removed almost all slack. When Covid hit, the supply chain was shut down and could not recover quickly. Systems with no slack work great when everything is perfect, but horribly when they aren't.


What was one thing that wasn't severely hampered by Covid - the internet. The internet is an incredibly inefficient system. There are redundancies galore, the very thing that supply chains worked to eliminate.


However, here was the real lesson. People are not the supply chain or the internet. You can't remove all the slack from a person's life. That leads to stress, burnout, and a lack of creativity. One reason for the great resignation and for the pushback to moving back to the office - people realized that slack was good for them. They had other stresses, but it was nice when the world didn't revolve totally around the office.


Remove slack from systems (within reason), not from people.