Dominica DeGrandis, the Principal Flow Adviser at Tasktop, offers a condensed guide to the fundamentals of Lean, kanban and flow to help you prioritize work tasks and increase productivity, efficiencies and revenue.
Dominica DeGrandis, the Principal Flow Adviser at software company Tasktop, explains that few of today’s workers understand how to maximize efficiency and productivity. In response, she teaches how to create effective workflow systems to boost the visibility of work. DeGrandis helps leaders lead through visual management techniques.
Many leaders constantly take on new projects, working teams beyond their maximum capacity rather than selecting the highest-value opportunities. Yet taking on more work than you have the capacity for results in time theft. DeGrandis identifies “five thieves” – “too much work-in-progress, unknown dependencies, unplanned work, conflicting priorities” and “neglected work” – that strike at the hearts of teams and businesses.
We overload ourselves and we overload our teams. This is the everyday reality within the information technology sector.Dominica DeGrandis
Work smarter, not more, says DeGrandis. Apply kanban, flow and Lean management methods to boost your team’s productivity and efficiency.
Too many unfinished projects and endless task lists generate excessive work-in-progress (WIP). This increases cycle time – the time teams need to execute projects – creating delays that drive up costs.
Demand for your time and skills will always exceed your capabilities, asserts DeGrandis, so get comfortable rejecting tasks that surpass your capacity. Graphically depict your team’s workflow to prioritize tasks. The kanban system makes tasks visual and allows team members to tackle new work when they have capacity, rather than trying to handle everything at once.
Use a kanban board to divide tasks into “to do,” “doing” and “done” columns. Deprioritize less important tasks so team members can focus on the most important ones. A kanban board categorizes types of work – for example, business requests and maintenance – to help you rank their importance.
Dependencies can strike in three ways: “Architecture dependencies” occur when an alteration in one area leads to breakdowns elsewhere; for example, you remove a database table and that hinders the ability of another team to perform its job. “Expertise dependencies” materialize when an individual or team waits for someone’s support or counsel to complete a task. “Activity dependencies” arise when delays in completing one task impede overall progress. The more dependencies you have, the more likely you’ll fail to deliver on time.
Every time you remove one dependency, half of the total possible delay combinations are removed. If delivery requires every piece being complete, every dependency you remove doubles your chances of delivering on time.Dominica DeGrandis
DeGrandis recommends creating a “dependency matrix” to identify which dependencies create expensive delays, and eradicate them. Using a whiteboard, create a graph. In a vertical list along the left side of the page, under the header “impactees,” write the names of the people working to create value whose work dependencies impede. Add a horizontal list along the top of the page – under the header “impactors” – of the names of the people who must complete actions before the impactees can finish their tasks. Graph the corresponding dependencies.
Organize teams around your product, rather than projects, to prevent dependencies. This ensures the people who create your product stay consistently involved, and it nurtures a streamlined product-oriented process.
The more time teams spend on unplanned work – fixing issues as they arise – the less they spend creating value.
Track your team’s activities to calculate the ratio of unplanned to planned tasks. Apply the Pomodoro method: Break work into stackable 25-minute chunks and five-minute breaks to tune out distractions.
According to DeGrandis, teams with conflicting priorities place excessive demands on the same resources and people, obstructing workflows and increasing unfinished work.
Overcome conflicting priorities by inserting between your kanban board’s to-do and doing columns an “options” column that lists all possible projects. Decide which hold the highest value, and move those from the options to the to-do column to set priorities that maximize revenue and reduce costs.
When you ignore important tasks, they eventually become emergencies you must deal with immediately, or they interrupt or distract you from higher-priority work, warns DeGrandis.
Neglected work is perishable. It ages. And like rotten fruit, it’s wasteful. Fruit is expensive, consumes space on the countertop, and gets old and moldy and smells bad.Dominica DeGrandis
Identify and visualize neglected work by flagging work items that people haven’t updated or moved within a specific duration of time, such as 30 days. Meet with team members responsible for neglected tasks to determine how they can move these tasks from “doing” to “done.”
Monitor “flow time” to quantify the time your company requires to execute a project from beginning to end. This lets you give customers accurate forecasting of how long their requests might take. Flow time includes cycle time and lead time: the duration between a client ordering your product and your team commencing work.
Embrace Lean, a flow-efficiency strategy grounded in visual management, to leverage kanban boards to make team meetings more productive and efficient.
A kanban board enables Lean efficient “stand-up meetings” – short, daily meetings at which team members check in and review progress. Using kanban, asserts DeGrandis, people merely glance at the wall to learn the status of each team member’s priorities, thus saving time.
Dominica DeGrandis specializes in abetting flow and smoothening the process of production. She amply demonstrates her expertise with the smooth flow of her prose and her logical movement from one aspect of visualizing work to the next. DeGrandis thoroughly grounds you in one concept before taking you on to the next. You may want to introduce her recommendations gradually to avoid overwhelming people and triggering resistance. Her method ensures that laypeople can grasp the basics of Lean, flow and kanban and easily apply them. This is a superb introductory primer – an excellent gateway to these concepts.
Other books on Lean and flow include Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais and Accelerate by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim.