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How my dishwasher (truly!) reminded me of why I love operations

Changing how I use my dishwasher reminded me of why I am an operations geek. Seriously, hear me out:

For the longest time I was in camp pre-rinse. If I didn’t, my dishes would always come out caked in dried up food and I was convinced that I just didn’t own one of those mythical dishwashers that cleans well. I was resigned to my fate of doing dishes for 20+ minutes a day.

I thought I was being environmental because I was only running my dishwasher when it was full to the brim. Meaning every 2-3 days. Me and my partner talked about our glorified drying rack of a dishwasher.

I then read an article which talked about water and energy usage of dishwashers. Turns out that a modern dishwasher uses very little energy and as little as 3 gallons of water per wash. And the article was very much in camp “don’t pre-rinse” because even washing one place setting can take something like 8 gallons of water.

So we decided to run an experiment. For one week we would switch over to no pre-rinse, but we would also run the dishwasher every night so food didn’t get dried on before the dishwasher ran.

This was a total game-changer. We have saved hours per week of chore time which means more time to relax (or write newsletter articles). But we’ve found other benefits too: we no longer run out of clean silverware; we enjoy having guests over more because it isn’t as much work; it’s one less thing in our relationship to cause friction.

This is a perfect analogy about the value of operations. Great operations have value that compounds:

  • Doing something regularly makes it easier to not fall behind. Set cadences so teams don’t end up with a giant pile of work that will never get done.
  • Free up time in people’s days. It isn’t about adding process, but streamlining. When done right, you are giving people more time to work on what matters.
  • Make it easier to work together as a team. When people have more time and clarity of responsibilities, it’s easier for them to work together. Nobody wants to spend their time managing interpersonal conflict.

Have you had a dishwasher moment in your life or work? Tell me your story!