As part of our ongoing ‘optimisation of operations’ initiative at NumberNagar®, we decided to downsize the real estate at our headquarters this year. Over the last couple of years, we had systematically optimised team size and organisation of roles. Now, it was high time to extend the same to the office location as well. We gave the required notice to our landlord and we were all set to relocate by the end of March.
Then, COVID19 and the subsequent lock-down happened! This major work item in our end of the year plan ground to a sudden halt. This week, however, with the partial relaxation of lock-down, we set upon this task. Our NumberNagar® experience has largely been associated with the creative learning space. We have been delighted with the impact that this space has provided to every one of our children. However, owing to the current uncertainty of the future of after-school learning centres, we are rethinking the relevance of the luxury of space.
Coming back to the topic at hand, we are relocating to a smaller space which will serve as our learning centre as well as office. That means, some serious de-cluttering. While my team and I have been at it constantly for the last 5 days, I have learned some eye-opening lessons.
Labour of love
The materials at our office are at least a decade old. One set of materials comprise of administrative files on R&D, Operations, and all other required departments. Another set is the outcome of all our years of R&D – Activity kits, Prototypes, Worksheets, Chemicals, Materials for experiments, Handwritten schematics, and so on. On one hand, it brought back all the memories of sleepless nights and weeks we spent creating these activities and products. Times that we spent organising events at schools, running summer programmes, training scores of teachers, delivering our solutions at various parts of the country. On the other hand, the sheer enormity of the printed material – workbooks, worksheets, manuals, training documents – unnerved me a lot. So much of it was unused. It hit me hard that what we thought was the labour of love brought with it inevitable intellectual waste.
At the time of creating and delivering these programmes, everything we did appeared relevant. But now a few years later, I see how much waste we could have avoided if we had been conservative. The amount of material we had amassed to achieve our dreams finally ended up in the recycle shop. Better late than never, I have learned my lesson.
In this process, I have reflected and introspected a great deal. The following are my notes to self, which any of you teachers, entrepreneurs, and all readers are free to follow. I would like to hear suggestions as well.
- Develop a minimalist approach to running systems and processes.
- Use technology as much as possible to avoid the accumulation of print materials.
- Print only the necessary sheets, “just in time”; do not print in bulk in anticipation of future requirements.
- Buy materials for the present requirement and not for tomorrow’s anticipated opportunity.
- Find a way to print letterheads in small quantities.
- Encourage customers to go paperless as well.
- Have a thoroughly updated inventory easily accessible, so that you avoid repurchasing and overstocking.
- Make minimalism an organisation culture.
- Eliminate the printer from the office (bold step, I know!).
Through this simple cleaning activity with my team at the office, my learning experience is mind blowing. The irony is that all this while, I thought I was a minimalist. Now I have realised the significance of invisible and hidden materials. I still have a long way to go! I am confident, however, that I will reach there. Please share your thoughts on this.
Stay safe, everyone.
Sriraghavan S M
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