On Managing Work - Not People (Part II)

July 30, 2020
3 minute read

By James Steele

Part I: On Managing Work – Not People suggested that in low flow efficiency environment the big levers for improving service delivery are in an addressing the amount of time that work spends in a wait state (removing delay). In this post I would like to highlight the commonly seen sources of delay and what we might do about it!

First I would like to offer a cautionary note. Flow efficiency should be viewed as a health indicator of your service – with a low efficiency signalling the likelihood of poor service health in terms of the flow of work. However, don’t make your improvements efforts completely about improving your flow efficiency at the expense of other important fitness criteria – like lead time! If your flow efficiency is improving, but doing so at the expense of unacceptable lead times that are outside acceptable thresholds, then you may actually be making things worse. So consider balancing your flow efficiency metric with a metric like lead time. Use flow efficiency as an improvement driver for your service that provokes important discussions about your service.

These are the commonly seen sources of delay. Be on the lookout for them and look to evolve your services and their policies to help address the delay.

Too Much Work-in-Progress (WIP)
If may not initially be obvious, but working on too many things at once is a big contributor to the delay of work. Making a decision to limit the amount of things you choose to have in progress is an effective way to improve flow efficiency and also improve lead times.

Other than the most trivial type of work, we usually encounter dependencies when trying to deliver customer recognizable work items. Common dependencies are other people, other teams, other companies/vendors, and other services.  In order to improve the flow of work and predictability of your service delivery, it’s important to identify and work towards managing these dependencies. Make the dependencies visible. Measure the impact. Put a price-tag on the delay. Work towards developing Service Level Agreements with internal and external dependencies.

Your service is likely to experience poor flow efficiency and unpredictable service delivery until you are able to manage dependencies. Make them known, understand them, and have important discussions about them.

To be continued…


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