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Part V: Process Improvements > In-Time Delivery

Chapter 30. In-Time Delivery

Our Alitalia flight from Boston to Rome departed late, just as we had been told to expect. Nevertheless, it landed in time for us to catch the direct train for Firenze, where we would have a few days to be pleasantly overwhelmed by the art, the food, and the wines of Tuscany before returning to Rome to teach a class on designing more usable software.

Note that I did not say that our plane landed “on time,” but rather “in time.” It's a subtle distinction in words, but a cultural matter of great import. Arriving at 6:30 for a 6:30 reception is being “on time.” Arriving when the line at the bar has diminished and they bring out the hot hors d'oeuvres is being “in time.” In time means functional timeliness. As for the Italians, it is not that they are incapable of acting with a sense of urgency, as when their pasta is in danger of cooking past the point of al dente perfection, it is just that in Italy, as in various other countries around the world, the cultural sense of time is not closely tied to clock time. A little early, a little late—what counts is the results, the outcome. Italy's neighbors to the north, the Swiss, are at the cultural antipode, operating their trains and their lives by schedules that you can set your Swatch by.


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