Recently, Gene Kim and I discussed my new book, Making Work Visible.
GK: What is it about visual cues that make them so effective?
DD: Images are easily received by the human eye, so the eye is naturally attracted to them. When used for visual cues, images, along with a few well-placed words, are quickly absorbed by the eye, making them easy to understand. We need little education to get the message. The combination of images and writing responds to our need for a nimble, unified language to be used across an organization. In contrast, a litany of acronyms and lingo is commonly used to communicate across different departments where people seem to not speak the same language.
GK: What are the top mistakes you see being made by leadership when trying to manage their team’s time?
DD: Mistake #1: Leaders (and just about everyone else) think that work can’t possibly take that long to do. But things always take longer to do, primarily because people are overloaded. The desire to keep people busy all the time (a faulty perception for optimizing costs) doesn’t take competing priorities into consideration. The more work piled on people’s plates at the same time, the more opportunity for time thieves to do damage. Dependencies and unplanned work grow with each new work request, and this work expands to consume more capacity than people have to do the work. The desire to keep people busy 100% of the time actually slows down the rate at which people can finish work.
Mistake #2: Creative workers such as developers, designers, and writers need large blocks of uninterrupted time to do their work well. It takes time to get into the zone when creating. An hour is barely enough time for developers to get started working on a solution to a complex problem. It’s one reason why developers hate meetings—an interruption at an inopportune time can blow a whole day. Smart managers understand the need for creative folks to work uninterrupted in two-hour chunks, and they avoid scheduling meetings during prime creative time.
GK: What’s the most impactful learning you have had working with kanban and other visual methods of tracking work and flow? Why?
DD: Given a visual to look at, people can stand together to see meaningful and relevant info with which to make decisions from. Well-designed kanban boards provoke necessary conversations, such as conflicting priorities and bottlenecks in the system. From the right perspective, visuals can help people understand that most problems lie within the system (rules, governance, the way people are measured) and not so much with individuals. The system then becomes the thing to improve, not the people.
To read the full Q&A session, check out https://itrevolution.com/qa-dominica-degrandis-gene-kim/
Making Work Visible: Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work & Flow is now available for purchase at all major book retailers in print, ebook, and audiobook formats at https://itrevolution.com/book/making-work-visible/.