3 things you need to increase productivity

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What I Believe

If you want to increase productivity, I believe you need 3 key things. In a previous post,  I wrote you needed ritual and motivation.  After some reflection, I decided to update that.  First, create a system to ensure you are always getting stuff done, regardless if you’re motivated (though it helps). Second, create rituals to follow within the system.  Last, repeat those rituals until they become habits.

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Work in Process – WIP

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What is ‘Work In Process – WIP’

Work in process, also known as WIP, refers to activities that have entered the completion process but are not yet outcomes. Work in progress (WIP) refers to all materials and partly finished products that are at various stages of the production process. WIP excludes inventory of time or materials at the start of the completion cycle and finished products inventory at the end of the production cycle.  That means you don’t count the things you have not started or have not finished.

Work in Process vs Progress

I see the difference between process and progress as being very small but I want to make a distinction.  I see progress being anchored to physical goods at different stages of completeness on an assembly line and process being completion of any activity as part of a goal or outcome.  Your process could be as simple as To-do and Done.  If you are multi-tasking and have 5 things started all at the same time, you have a WIP of 5.

Personal Agility Tip

One of the secrets of managing your work in process is to only start work on things you actually have capacity to work on. When you have capacity, you can pull work into your “queue”. Rather than accepting and starting every task that comes your way, limit the amount of stuff that you’re working on at any given time.  Focus less on starting things in your queue and more on finishing them, and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll get more done.

Personally, I know that I can only deal with three activities at a time before things start to get dropped. Know your personal limits and set them accordingly. If you’re working on something and you get blocked, don’t just pull in more work. Add a visual indicator that shows the item is blocked and continue pulling working to done. Once you unblock work, you can pull it the rest of the way through your system to done.

Have questions?  Ask me how I do it!

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Lean Metrics in the Real World

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Today, I was faced with the unfortunate task of renewing my driver’s license. It’s been 10 years since the last renewal and I remember the last time I was at the Maryland MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration) office, I waited for what seemed to be an hour.  We all know how painful the experience is.  You stand in line, you get to the front of the line, they tell you to go fill out some paperwork and then to get back in line. I will use the opportunity to teach others about lean metrics.

Lead Time

Lead time is the time between the initiation and completion of a production process.  In my case, I left the office at 09:00 and arrived back at the office at 10:00.  The lead time to get a renewed driver’s license was 60 minutes.  Given my goal, the shorter the lead time the better.

Cycle Time

Cycle time is the total time from the beginning to the end of a process, as defined by you and your customer. Cycle time includes process time, during which a unit is acted upon to bring it closer to an output, and delay time, during which a unit of work is spent waiting to take the next action.  The shorter your cycle times (including delays) the shorter your lead time.

My cycle times included:

  • 15 minutes – driving to MVA office
  • 5 minutes – standing in initial line to be added to the proper queue
  • 16 minutes – wait time to get the front of the line
  • 5 minutes – actual renewal processing
  • 4 minutes – wait time to be given the new driver’s license
  • 15 minutes – driving back from the MVA office

Cycle time is one of the key lean metrics

My hat comes off to Maryland MVA.  On their website, they provide current wait times at the different locations.  I took a screen grab before I headed to the local MVA branch.  This feedback was very valuable.  Given the service I needed, it allowed me to provide an estimate of my time away to others I was going to be working with today.

Throughput

Throughput is the the amount of material or items (people in this case) passing through a system or process per time unit. With an average cycle time of 5 minutes for the renewal process, the throughput in 60 minutes would be 12 people.  At first glance, I didn’t see any real bottlenecks or delays in their system.  Given what I saw, I believe 10 people an hour is a reasonable throughput.

Understanding Lean Metrics

I hope this brief real world example of lean metrics is valuable to you.  When I was at a session for value stream mapping at Agile 2015, the poor guy leading the session kept getting lead time and cycle time mixed up.  The people in the room heckled the hell out of him. After reading this, that should never happen to you.

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Lean Business Report Presented by LeanKit

Lean Business Report
You’ve heard of the State of Agile survey?

Welcome to the Lean Business Report Survey!

I would describe myself as a whole lot of things, including a Lean Practitioner.  I was forwarded this survey and thought I would give it a go.  It only took me about 10 minutes and it felt great that I was able to contribute.

Why not help out?  Get started here >> Lean Business Report Survey


In the survey, you’ll be asked to share your experiences in learning, adopting or practicing Lean. LeanKit will compile and share the results in early 2016. Together, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of how Lean works for business.

If you provide your email address, you’ll receive an early copy of the Lean Business Report and also be entered to win one of five $500 Amazon gift cards.
Here are some quick facts to know before you begin:

  • The survey will take approximately 11 minutes.

  • Only questions marked with an asterisk (*) are required.

  • Your responses are completely anonymous.
Thank you again for your input!
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Agile 2015 Twitter Feed

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Looking for the play by play from Agile 2015? Check out the feed below


Podcast Interview on Personal Kanban

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I recently spoke with Dave Prior to discuss Personal Kanban, the ways in which we’ve each used it to manage the work we have to do, and what it has taught us about ourselves and how we get things done professionally and personally.

Here are some links to people and things I mention in the podcast.

Personal Kanban – Book by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Berry
Jim Benson – Super insightful and nice guy
LeanKit – The digital tool to help manage my analog work and life
Pomodoro Time 1.1 – Keeps me focused 25 minutes at a time

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