The cost of interruptions, and how to reduce it

Interruptions can be a significant source of waste. By their nature, interruptions cause a context switch as we lose track of what we had been working on to focus on the interruption. There is a significant cost to that context switch as it takes time and effort away from the task at hand. There is also a real impact on quality as mistakes are far more likely to happen when we’re distracted.

Massively overburdened with WIP

About once a year I run across a team that has at least ten times as many items on the board as there are people on the team. The worst I’ve ever seen was a team of ten people with 227 items in progress.

Flowing value

In Kanban we often talk about flowing value through the system and yet that’s somewhat misleading. The reality is that we can’t know whether a work item is valuable until we’ve actually finished the work and made it available to our customers.

Classes of service

Many Kanban teams use classes of service to help model their workflow. We’re going to talk about how they work, where they are valuable and why you should avoid them wherever you can.

“We tried Kanban and it didn’t work”

I sometimes run across teams that say “we tried kanban and it didn’t work”. When I hear this, I’m always genuinely curious and ask for more details about what they’d done and what specifically didn’t work for them.

Waste: Psychological Distress

One of the more subtle forms of waste is psychological distress. When we are afraid or anxious, our sympathetic nervous system activates to prepare us for one of fight, flight or freeze. All good responses in a survival situation.

Understanding waste in the system

In Kanban, we are always trying to optimize for efficiency, effectiveness and predictability. Waste in the system is something that hurts all three of these objectives and is something we want to remove or reduce wherever possible.

The only way to win is to learn faster

Over the past 15 years of working with various agile techniques, practices, frameworks, and strategies I’ve found that there is one thread that ties them all together. They are all focused on improving our ability to learn and to apply that learning to our future work.

Determining cycle time from an online system

This post is aimed at a fairly niche audience so if you aren’t trying to make sense of poor data out of some ticketing system then you might want to skip this one.