The 5 Things You Need to Pay Attention to Daily and Why
Please tell me if you’ve EVER asked yourself one these questions:“What did I even accomplish today?” “I don’t think I got anything done today”“I don’t even know where the time went!”
We tell ourselves that there are not enough hours in the day. My two-cents: I think it’s true. . . if all you focus on is time & tasks.
Every time I’m with a team struggling with capacity, I immediately want to see how well they are managing 5 team capacity indicators:
1. Work-in-Process (WIP) – I want to see how much work there is expected to come in as well as work that has started, but is not yet finished (somewhere in the pipeline). Where can I go to see this?
2. Unplanned Work – Can they show me how much unplanned work is in process. How much time has the individual/team spent on unplanned work in the past month?
3. Conflicting Priorities – Are the projects and tasks that compete with each other visible? Please show me. . . ALL of it.
4. Dependencies – I’m always curious how aware and predictive the team is when it comes to dependencies. There are typically three types that we can make visual:
A. Approvals- Waiting for someone to approve something
B. Expertise- Waiting for someone to consult, weigh-in, or provide information
C. Tasks- Waiting for someone to do their job so you can do yours
5. Neglected Work – Can you show me what work has been sitting on-hold or waiting for resolution and for how long? Look, these things will NEVER go away. They are a part of life. They are like dominoes and they feed off each other. So either you’re effectively managing them, or they are managing you! Like that’s it. The end.
Too much Work in Process (WIP)
WIP is THE leading indicator that your workflow is congested. You have to pay attention to it.
I’ve sat with so many teams that aren’t able to show me how much work they have in process, the different types of work they have, or how much time they expect each “piece of work” will take to complete.
This is such an important and foundational starting point. If you can’t see the work, you can’t surface problems. If you can’t surface problems, you get sucked into crises.
Your mission: Make the work visible and make it move.
In our complex unpredictable world, there will ALWAYS be unplanned work. One study revealed that up to 35% of our work week is spent engaged in unplanned work. It’s like the roommate you can’t get rid of.
Your mission: Make unplanned work visible. Look for patterns in the unplanned. Plan for the unplanned work.
There will always be unexpected work, but some unplanned work is of our own doing:
Saying “yes” to things because we ‘have time’ or as a favor
Poor planning and having work deployed (dumped) on us last minute
Taking something on that takes longer than expected to complete
Taking on work when we are unsure if it is a priority or not
The more we can see what kinds of unplanned work exist and how much there is, the more equipped we are to manage our response to it.
Conflicting priorities lead to overload. When people are unsure of priorities, they take on more than they need to.
Your mission: Visualize ALL conflicting work.
Incidents, project work, admin work, maintenance work – they all compete with each other. When work goes on hold because someone says, “You need to do this other thing now,” make that visible. We can’t improve what we can’t see.
Show it, share it… then improve it. Sometimes leaders need to see an actual image of the frequency to digest the impact it has on team performance. Visualizing this opens up opportunities get clear on prioritization policies, work deployment logic, etc.
Here’s the deal: every dependency doubles your chances of being delayed or late. Dependencies increase the need for coordination. Inevitably this means we’re stuck waiting for people, information, answers, and approvals.
Your mission: Visualize known dependencies AND bring teams together, often for fast & focused huddles.
Who expects or needs an approval today? Who expects or is waiting for consult? Who expects or is waiting for a task to be complete? Teams that huddle around these questions every day AND visualize them on a commitment board find that personal accountability rises. Reviewing them daily opens up the opportunity for faster escalation if anything is sitting/waiting.
The goal isn’t to eliminate dependencies all together, but to reduce their impact on a team’s time, engagement, and performance.
Ah, the work that sits on-hold or that falls through the cracks. I worked with a team that had really important preventative maintenance work always fall behind the emergency of the day.
Your mission: You guessed it. Make it visible and make it move.
Every visual I make with a team to show their work includes a way to show pace (ahead/behind). If the visual doesn’t trigger action, it isn’t a useful visual. How will we show the pace of work so we can see what is NOT moving? What action will it trigger?
Experiment and adapt as needed.
Time. . . to Make a Difference
If you’re going to improve performance, you must expose these capacity killers. Start today. Funny how we don’t have time to make improvements but we have plenty of time to keep resolving the same problems over and over again.
I want you and your team to experience a shift in your performance. You deserve it. . . the world deserves what you have to offer. So seriously, don’t wait. Get to it!
No, really, you’re still here… go…!.