Making Work Visible

Nov. 8, 2019 · 3 min read

Making Work Visible by Dominica DeGrandis.

Day, n. A period of twenty-four hours, mostly misspent.

– Ambrose Bierce

Parkinson’s Law: work expands to fill the time available for its completion

The aim of kanban is to make troubles come to the surface.

– Taiichi Ohno

ToC is a way to identify the most important limiting factor (the constraint) that stands in the way of achieving a goal and then systematically improving that constratint until it is no longer the limiting factor.

The five thieves of time that prevent you from getting work done:

  1. Too much work-in-progress (WIP) – work that has started, but is not yet finished
  2. Unknown dependencies – something you weren’t aware of that needs to happen before you can finish
  3. Unplanned work – interruptions that prevent you from finishing something or from stopping at a better breaking point
  4. Conflicting priorities – projects and tasks that compete with each other
  5. Neglected work – partially completed work that sits idle

Why do you take on more work than you have the capacity to do?

  1. We are team players
  2. We fear humiliation
  3. We like new and shiny
  4. We don’t realize how big the request is until we start working on it
  5. We like to please people

Why too much WIP matters

  • delayed delivery of value
  • increased costs
  • decreased quality
  • conflicting priorities
  • irritable staff

Cycle time is the amount of elapsed time that a work item spends as work-in-progress

Cost of delay is the business value that could have been realized sooner

It can take up to twenty minutes to get back to that same thinking spot after an interruption.

– David Rock, Your Brain at Work

The three types of Dependency

  1. Architecture – where change in one area can break another area
  2. Expertise – where counsel or aid from a person with specific knowledge is needed to do something
  3. Activity – where progress cannot be made until an activity is complete

Every dependency doubles your chance of being delayed or late.

– Troy Magennis

Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.

– John Carmack

Organizing teams around a product allows the people who developed, tested, and delivered the functionality to stay in their area of expertise

Organizing teams by product decreases dependencies during hand-off to ongoing operational support

Projects are delivered as one big monolithic thing… Projects create big batches of work that are handed off to others at the end of the project to deliver and maintain… In contrast, organizing and managing by product keeps the same group of people with the necessary expert domain knowledge consistently involved

There are several ways to prioritize

  • Highest paid person’s opinion (HiPPO): Each job is assigned a priority by the most senior person in charge and processed accordingly
  • Cost of delay (CoD): A way of communicating value and urgency, CoD is a measure of the impact of time on the outcomes we want
  • First-in, first-out (FIFO): It’s a simple and fair process
  • Weighted shortest job first (WSJF): WSJF is calculated by dividing the CoD by the job duration

Never let something important become urgent.

– Eliyahu Goldratt

Deming used an iterative, four-step approach for change, problem solving, and continuous improvement of processes and products known as PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)