The levers around us

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the earth – Archimedes.

We’ve all learnt about levers in school. They are force multipliers. With a lever whose load arm is 5 times as long as the effort arm, one can lift a rock weighing 50 Kg with just 10 Kg of force.Leverage

But the word “leverage” applies to several other situations.

Consider a manual process that needs to be performed every single time. Once that process is automated, you are saved of that manual labour for eternity. The leverage behind automation is what has flooded our lives with inexpensive goods since the Industrial Revolution.

A good night’s sleep offers great leverage. 8 hours of restful sleep multiply productivity in the 16 hours that follow it.

The old Chinese proverb about teaching a man to fish points to yet another form of leverage. Training in most organizations is neglected – this is often short sighted. Andy Grove, one of Intel’s founders, illustrates this with some simple math.

Training is, quite simply, one of the highest-leverage activities a manager can perform. Consider for a moment the possibility of your putting on a series of four lectures for the members of your department. Let’s count on three hours preparation for each hour of course time – twelve hours of work in total. Say that you have ten students in your class. 

Next year they will work a total of about twenty thousand hours for your organization. If your training efforts result in a 1 percent improvement in your subordinates’ performance, your company will gain the equivalent of two hundred hours of work as a result of the expenditure of your twelve hours. 

What other levers can you find around you?

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