Tag Archives: Limiting Work in Progress

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” AKA Queue Theory

Early Queue theory? ”The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” – Lewis Carroll

The 401 highway is my favourite example of the problem with Queues. At 100% of capacity it can take easily 3 hours to travel from Waterloo to Toronto.  At low capacity it can be done in ~1hr15minutes. Same route, same distance ~1/3 the time.

Sometimes to make a drink that is not full of garbage I mix Sunwarrior and Vega and pour it into my water bottle with a funnel. I noticed that if I just dump the powder into the funnel it clogs. If I sprinkle it in being careful to stay below a certain threshold I am done far faster than dump and fix the clog. Many times faster actually.

Based on the mathematical models (my personal experience verifies it) at about  65% of capacity things start to slow down. The more you try to cram work in the longer it takes to get done. It starts doubling quickly to the point that even a tiny addition halves the throughput.

So explain to me then how pushing for more work to get done makes things faster?

by Michael Badali

Limit Work in Progress

Most of us think  that if you answer the phone while typing an email scribble a note and feed the baby you are getting more done. There is lots of data to disprove that but also ask yourself, have you ever been annoyed at someone while they were time slicing you?

In fact task switching and context switching are major forms of waste  AND also sources of error. Getting in the groove is a type of concentration that is invaluable. The opposite of writers block if you will.

Try a simple test: get your team together, each person except one has a piece of paper and the exception has a pen. Each person in turn hands the paper to the ‘scribe’ and the scribe writes the persons name and hands it back, then takes from the next person until complete. How long did that take?

Then try this but instead of writing the person’s name just write the first letter cycling through the group then back to the first person and write the second letter etc…

How long did that take?

In my experience about 3 times as long.

Also, most people tend to work on the easy task and not the one of highest Value.

“We’ve already seen that multitasking on the road is the equivalent of drinking and driving. Other research cited by Medina shows that people who are interrupted – and therefore have to switch their attention back and forth – take 50% longer to accomplish a task, and make up to 50% more errors. -http://lateralaction.com/articles/multitasking/

by Michael Badali