Editorial Comment

Pirate Ship and Lego Man – Getting Things Done

So when do you think you will get it done?

Working in a GP Surgery where doctors suffer from the 10 minute syndrome (the standard length of a consultation) of getting things done, Practice Managers and their staff often find it difficult to close the door and get a job done to a specific timetable. You will have met those colleagues too who suffer from ‘the time management syndrome’ the one where their time is more precious than yours. Annoying creatures?

I have two stories that may help you involving games or hobbies that you might play or do in your spare time! Spare time I hear you say, what is that?

Pirate Ship

The first ‘hobby’ is Pirate Ship. This is a model made out of plywood. It has over ninety parts that have to be cut out of five plywood boards. The instructions that come with the model are minimal. There is a sideways picture of the model which does not show the whole of the model ship. There is a plan of sorts which shows content of the five boards and marks the position a by number on the board that the pieces are to be joined together. No glue is required. But a level of degree of thinking that is far superior than you would need for a building Lego model.

To build the Pirate Ship a small knife is needed to carefully cut the pieces of plywood away from the board. A small piece of sandpaper is required to clean up the edges of the pieces. A magnifying glass is also needed to find the numbers on the plan. The trick to make progress is to find the number 1 twice on the plan and then find the pieces on the boards before any cutting starts. Having found the matching numbers and having cut the pieces away from the board you can then join the two pieces together and then continue to repeat the exercise until the model is built. The model took around five hours to make and I would say that at the start of the exercise it was almost impossible to predict how long it would take to build.

So this task of building a plywood pirate ship was quite complex, it needed tools and skills. It required thinking time, and observational skills. The plan and picture required magnification and even a search on the internet for a better set of instructions helped solve some of the construction problems. So research was needed too!

Much like at work, getting things done can be quite complex requiring new skills and new knowledge to achieve your goals. Ideally managers get things done through people and it may be necessary to find people who can take on board new skills and new knowledge.

The Pirate Ship is a Woodcraft Construction Kit P217 made by Quay PO Box 1034 Blackpool FY1 4XB (

Lego Man

Lego Man 3

The second story relates to building a Lego model ‘man’. The difference with this ‘game’ is that it comes without a plan. Normally ‘Lego’ kits come with a picture book guide to making the model so it is possible to meticulously follow the picture instructions brick by brick and normally produce a perfect replica of the model. The time taken to build a model depends on the number of bricks but it probably quite predictable. Lego Man is a ‘management’ game where a model is presented to the participants already made. About one foot high it is made up of 260 different coloured bricks and at best would probably take about 15 minutes to build from scratch from a selection of loose bricks if the sample model was left in front of you to view. However, that would not be a game. Instead participants are allowed to view the model for 5 minutes and then are given a box of bricks sufficient to build a replica model. After five minutes the model is removed from sight and the participants are asked to build a copy of the model from their box of bricks.

You can imagine the scene. There is a rush on to build the model within the 15 minute time limit. Some start to put bricks together. Others sit and think. Pens and paper appear and sketches are drawn. Overall there is chaos. The model re-appears for short spells to help the builders on their way. What they do not realise is that some have the bricks have changed position. This is what happens in real life. Somebody moves the goal posts.

Time is up and the ‘models ‘are ready or not for viewing. You guessed it none of the models bear any resemblance to the original. Why is this?

The Lego bricks came from Box 5932.

The Lessons

The lessons to be learnt from both of these exercises are to allow thinking time before ‘building’.  For instance you could spend 10 minutes thinking and 5 minutes building the model. You might need to research. Look at the model again. You might need to prepare a plan. Write a procedure or protocol. You might need to agree a policy. You might need new skills. You might need to talk to others and get help. You might need to delegate.

Robert Campbell is a retired GP Practice Manager and web site author.


Robert Campbell

By Robert Campbell<br><img src="" alt="Robert Campbell" class="avatar" width='50' height='50'/>

Started work writing medical cards in 1966 at Staffordshire Executive Council. Have worked at Inner London Executive Council, Hertfordshire Executive Council, Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham FPC, Birmingham FPC, Dudley FPC and Wakefield FPC and Family Health Services Authority. I was seconded to the NHS Appeals Unit and have worked as a full time GP practice manager since 1992 until 2010. I was also an AMSPAR trainer at Park Lane College, Leeds. Now I work as a freelance author.

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