How to reduce waste by increasing your speed

When we estimate the time needed to get something done in a process we usually divide the number of things to do by the average rate of completion. We call the resulting number Cycle Time. With other words, Cycle Time is the average amount of time it takes to get a thing through a process. We call this equation Little’s law.

Little’s law apply for all stable systems. In real life, we know that things happen. When things happen systems get unstable and it becomes more and more difficult to predict Cycle Time. Many teams and projects suffer from this disease. Projects get their budget overrun. Teams are unable to answer when they can be done. In software development, people are also used to say; we are doing creative work and we cannot estimate.

In common sense thinking, read Lean and Agile, we seek to shorten the feedback flow so we are able to adjust the system. For example; when integrating two pieces of work done by two different teams or persons, we may need a week of work. The number of things that can go wrong is big and introduces much unpredictability to the system.

On the other hand, if we integrate the work more often, we deal with a shorter list of things that can go wrong. Hence, we can predict Cycle Time more accurately and manage to deliver both estimates and plans that can be met. Said in another way:

We reduce waste by increasing our speed and do small things in a great way!

Steps to follow to reduce waste by increasing speed:

  • Establish a filter for incoming work
  • Based on your capacity:
    • Minimize number of work items in progress
    • Minimize the size of each item
  • Iterate: Check your progress regularly and learn from your mistakes and successes

Our ultimate goal is to have a steady flow of features into the system. When this is achieved, your production is in good health.

If you are unsure of how to implement the steps mentioned earlier, please contact me and I will be glad to offer you some help.

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