Have you ever looked around a busy organization and wondered if it’s possible for people to have so much WIP they can’t see they have too much WIP? If you know what WIP is skip to the next paragraph. WIP is an acronym for work in progress, and is a count of the number of activities a person or team has open at a given time. Think of it like cars on a highway. Each car represents a WIP count of one. At rush hour the WIP count can be very high, and as the highway becomes increasingly full the average speeds drop accordingly. If you have the joy of commuting you will understand the analogy.
I’ve worked with organizations where everyone has a lot of things happening at the same time. It’s common for people to be working on 2, 3 or even more projects at the same time. I shudder when I read things on the internet where someone says they can handle a dozen or more projects at the same time. Seriously?!?
Something struck me as I observed behaviours in one organization. It appeared many of the people didn’t even seem to be cognizant of the fact they are being so inefficient by having so many things on the go. They seem to readily accept it as a normal course of business.
The true issue here for me is the people have real productivity issues and don’t even know it. A shift needs to happen to move the people from thinking being busy equates to being productive. The real focus needs to be to have them start focusing on finishing tasks and projects before moving on to the next item.
Now I know for many having many things dumped on you at the same time is just reality. I see it all the time where it seems it’s normal course of business to think you can handle just one more thing. So what do we do? We jump from crisis to crisis attacking the task which is creating the most noise right now. It’s such a bad way to approach such a bad situation! I’ve been trapped by this myself in the past!
Try looking at Personal Kanban as a means to improve this situation for yourself. Kanban promotes the concept of limiting WIP, and clearly places the focus on finishing rather than starting. For me personally I use personal Kanban and the benefits are incredible. Higher productivity, greater clarity of focus, and much more! What I really like about the approach is while I’m working on task ‘A’, I don’t think about task ‘B’. Think about it the next time you have a heavy workload and you’re trying to write a document. Where is your mind wandering to? Are you solely focused on the current task? Or are you also thinking about the next task?
Don’t know where to start? Email me and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction to help you get going.