Re-read Saturday, Tame you Work Flow Week 4: Chapter 3 – Flow Efficiency, Little’s Law and Economic Impact



Tame your Work Flow

Self-knowledge is valuable to keep yourself reigned in, I really think Little’s Law is important. This week I needed to make sure I did not go overboard in discussing the ramifications of the theorem (I will include links at the end of this week’s re-read for those who want to go into depth). Chapter 3 of Tame your Work Flow is incredibly important for understanding the overall book. In your re-read spend the time needed understanding how the themes noted in the chapter title inter-relate.

As with previous chapters, the authors begin topics by ensuring that you understand the language they are using. In this case, they begin with three terms:

Touch Time – is the time that work is performed on the work item. For example, writing code for software or keyboarding writing an article.  Wait Time – is the time (after work is pulled to be worked on) that the work item sits around after it is in process. For example, the time the code sits waiting for the next keystroke while you are at that all-hands meeting.Flow Time – is the sum of Touch and Wait Time.

Steve and Daniel explicitly exclude time before work is pulled and after. The time waiting in the backlog or in story refinement is excluded in TameFlow. A slightly over the top example to highlight Wait and Touch Time is as follows:

If I pull a work item at 8 AM, work on it for 30 minutes, at noon stop, and then finish it in 30 minutes of work between 7:30 and 8 PM. The task has been in process for 12 hours with 1 hour of Touch Time and 11 hours of Wait Time.

While the example feels silly, I can remember two or three occasions in the past six months when very similar scenarios happened due to interruptions or impromptu meetings. We will use the example again when we calculate flow efficiency.  

The authors point out that Touch Time, which definition is inside the process, is always within our span of control (we can act on how we work). This is one of the reasons they explicitly exclude measuring activity outside the process for flow efficiency. Adding activities outside of the span of control distorts our interpretation of flow efficiency. Activities outside our span of control are at best within our sphere of influence and often we can not exert any influence on them. This means that we need to have a clear and unambiguous distinction about what is in and what is out of the process. 

A second topic that the authors spend time on is the idea of whether we want to work faster (reduce Touch Time) or deliver sooner (often the largest impact is to reduce Wait Time). As most of the readers will recognize, Touch Time is almost always far less than the amount of Wait Time. If we use our earlier example, if we worked faster and reduced both coding sessions by 50%, we would complete the work item in 11.5 hours (approximately a 4% improvement in flow time)

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By: tcagley
Title: Re-read Saturday, Tame you Work Flow Week 4: Chapter 3 – Flow Efficiency, Little’s Law and Economic Impact
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Published Date: Sat, 27 Jun 2020 23:55:00 +0000

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