Continuing on from the “The Phoenix Project” concepts and why understanding the four types are important concepts to master.
For each of type of work, you need to understand how it originates and then how it flows through your organisation. Organisations need to have a full understanding of their overall work commitments. David Allen talks about the psychic toll your individual commitments have on you when you’re not mastering them. The same concept extrapolates to organizations.
Until you see it, you can’t manage it. You need to organize, sequence and ensure your resources can complete it . Otherwise, you’re being whipsawed back and forth as “urgent” tasks come to the forefront as you find yourself and your organization in a “constant reaction mode”.
After you’ve captured all your work commitments, you can move on to developing mechanisms to control the work’s flow.
We need to understand the impact of work-in-progress and be in a position to prioritize work across each type. The Theory of Constraints (ToC), Lean Management and Total Quality Management (TQM) all talk about work-in-progress(WIP) as the “silent killer”. WIP quantity directly affects your cycle-time. The more work you are currently juggling, the more cycle-time required to complete each task. It is an embodiment of multitasking switching costs and an extension of queuing theory’s Little’s Law fundamentals.
Therefore one of the most fundamental mechanisms to master is how you release new work tasks, where they go and at what frequency. You need to take into account the entire value chain and it’s ability to deliver, not just the next step in the process.
This diagram from ValueFowIT.com.au nicely illustrates this with a Demand Model
Their demand model identifies the work triggers across the different work types, and then models the activity flow through to the allocation of tasks. Once work has been approved to proceed, either via Demand Management or through another internal operational process, it is then added to the backlog to be scheduled and prioritized.
It is also equally important to limit the size and scope of each task. Agile development practices show that smaller, more frequent package releases are both far more productive, and deliver better quality results single large package releases.
Using techniques like Kanban is a good start for managing these work packages. It delivers a visual representation of all work across the value chain. You can see all WIP items, and use that to control acceptance of new work commitments and new work tasks release. Kanban view allows you to see the current backlog and what is being addressed by each resource.