Related Podcast and Transcription: Drowning in Work
Joe: Well, you have a matrix in the book where you talk about constraints and some of them bad and good. Can constraints be like your throttle for your work?
Jim: Yes, yes. So Work in Process is a healthy constraint, and if you have no constraints, then you have no system. We build systems, or we come up with processes so that we can have a coherent way to finish what we’re doing. Any system that we build needs to A, have the least amount of rules possible, so it needs to be as small as possible. And then the second thing is it needs to be as coherent as possible; so you need to be able to understand it and in order to understand it, it’s helpful to not have to think too much about it.
That matrix in Chapter 6 of the book specifically weighs off the differences between flexibility and effectiveness for any type of a constraint. In order to have any System, we need to have a minimum amount of constraint, so the system has some definition and limiting WIP is a healthy constraint. It’s saying you can’t do more work than you can handle, and it’s keeping you at a level where you are constantly working at or slightly below your capacity.
The throttle there is that if you want to get more work done, you have a lower Work in Process limit. If I want to work extremely fast, I will do one thing at a time. Two things I’ll work a little bit slower, three a little bit slower, four a little bit slower. Because each time you add something, it adds to the cognitive load in your head and you’re constantly thinking about the other things that you’re not working on right now, and you’re probably being distracted by people who are stakeholders in those tasks that you’ve already started.
Joe: I see that, and I understand it. Okay, I mean we live in a work in process but I got a lot of projects going on here and how do I really help it, because I mean it seems like all of us have a lot of balls we’re juggling here and someone else is maybe not managing as well and they have a lot of stuff going on too; so, what do we do?
Jim: Well the PC statement here is that if you don’t limit your Work in Process, your Work in Process will limit you. So the more stuff you do, the worst job you’re going to do. So you have to decide, are you happy knowing that everything that you’re putting out has some degree of quality issues in it?
The other thing is that when we’re working with corporate clients, the main thing that we’re working on is getting them organizationally to also limit their Work in Process. So organizations love organizational goals, and they’ll make 5, 10, 20, 30 of them at a time and all of those organizational goals make people do something. They will spawn projects, and they will spawn tasks, and those projects will spawn tasks and that cascades down to overload the organization.
We actually start working with leaders to say, okay you can have two or three major strategic intense or major goals at a time, and then out of that will flow a certain number of projects and out of those projects will flow tasks and will keep the organization coming along.
What happens is when you limit your Work in Process, you finish things faster and then you get more done in the long run. An extreme example of this would be if I wanted to get to the grocery store in five minutes, I would get in my car and I would drive to the grocery store. If I get in two cars, I cannot drive there in two and a half minutes; that’s just not how it works.
We’re treating people like that is how it works; so we overload their brains thinking…you thought if you got this report done in one week, if I gave you two reports done, you could also get them done if you get them done in two weeks. If I gave you three reports at the same time, you could get them done in the same amount of time,
We overload people, and one of the major problems here is we actually don’t know what people’s capacity is. It’s not like we’re evil, we just simply don’t know what the capacity of our thinking machines are.
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