We all want to be regular.
Something we all have in common at work is the desire to have a regular and predictable cadence of work output. Doing so just makes life easier. It’s rewarding to our customers when they receive their goods and services within expected boundaries. It’s good for the well-being of our team dynamics and mental happiness because everyone achieves the goal together and feels the satisfaction of customer acceptance.
Work methodologies agree on this concept as well. Systems such as Agile software development and Lean aim to create flow and eliminate unevenness in a system. Unevenness brings excess inventory within the system that is apparent when materials, supplies, and outputs start to collect in areas while waiting for the next step in the flow to process them.
I had never really thought about excess inventory like constipation before this week. But while looking at the portfolio of technology work and the length of time some projects had been in the system, I started to see the pains and strains of organizational team members to keep up with the work. When technology projects don’t keep a regular cadence the tendency is to continue to start new work to meet stakeholder expectations for delivery. That’s a recipe for technology constipation.
Pushing more work is analogous to painful straining. It gives the allusion that the team is working harder, but in the long run it will only make things worse. Work system methodologies like Agile and Lean have a manual describing the steps for better workflow and reducing inventory. These steps require management support, team culture fit, a common approach, and persistence over time. But you we can’t let the symptoms of the problem overwhelm us and paralyze the team into inaction.
Here are some good initial steps for technology teams to find relief:
- Communicate with internal customers about the build-up of inventory and future demand. It’s more than being transparent with your customers it’s also about involving them in the decision making of priorities.
- Focus on current work in progress to finish what you’ve started while not taking on other work. This is like telling a person with large credit card debts to stop putting more purchases on the card until they are paid-off. Otherwise the cycle continues. Stakeholder support is required for this!
- Start to analyze existing work streams with an eye for implementing agile and/or lean tactics. Iterate, review, reflect, and repeat.
One thing is certain; it’s good to be regular and painful to experience back-up of solution delivery. That’s reason enough to start or continue working towards better flow of work.
Onward and upward!