Stop wasting time, imagine your workflow – episode two

Color pencil

I recently wrote a blog about the top 5 blockers that usually slow down or stop people progressing through their workflow. You can find the blog here: http://www.modernanalyst.com/Resources/Articles/tabid/115/ID/5034/Make-your-work-visible.aspx. In this blog, I am going to focus on 3 basic tools that you can use to help you identify pain points in your workflow.

One of the key things to keep in mind when working with a visual method is to understand where your blockers are. Once you have identified these blockers you will be able to do something about them. There is no point in trying to change something unless you have proof of the problem. As a business analyst, we will not say where the business problems are without analyzing a thorough root cause. So, why do we do this in the workplace, why do we think without evidence we know what the problem is and what the effects are.

Obstacles

Obstacles are a way of life, rarely given the opportunity to work in isolation from all of us at work. Being a business analyst means working with everyone in our team and sometimes in the organization. I came across Interception Buckets in a brilliant book by Jimmy Janlen (Visualization Example).

Before you start You need to define what the barrier means to you – for some people, it means they have to move away from their desk, other people will spend some time with it. It doesn’t really matter what approach you take but make sure it is consistent.

So what is this …

Barrier bucket

Once you have defined the barrier, you are ready to start. You have to draw the barrier bucket, I would personally recommend you draw between 3-5. Also, make sure you are drawing buckets where you will see them every day.

Each time you are interrupted, write down in a positive note who interrupted you, why and for how long. Who captures, then you can understand which person / team is causing problems in your workflow. This will allow you to collect data to help you determine pain points in your workflow, why and for how long.

What, I would suggest you to do this exercise in two weeks. By doing this during this time, it will give you enough data to critically evaluate where and when your interruptions are occurring.

Why

Barrier buckets are my favorite tool to use when I want to understand where the problems are in my workflow. The Interpretation Bucket tool provides you with data to understand where most of your obstacles are coming from and most importantly from whom.

The great thing about the bucket bucket is that due to its simple nature, it is a tool that can be used on your own or with your team. It provides You have metrics that you can use to understand how long an obstacle has lasted for you or your team.

Unknown dependence

No matter how well we prepare as a team, you will often not find the reliance you want to see. This can happen for a variety of reasons. One of the best ways to handle this is to build a dependency spider.

It’s one of my favorite tools to use at work. I used this figure when we recently renovated our house, especially before we started gaining an insight into our dependence on blockers. By completing the tool, I was able to see how many different stakeholders I relied on. With the tool we are able to first deal with the most risky dependencies and create a plan of action.

So what is this …

Dependence Spider

You need to draw a black circle on a whiteboard / flipchart / paper and label it as your team:

  • Draw different stakeholders around the team on which the team depends, making sure you don’t go over board with 20. I would recommend a good number about 8 (suitable for a spider).

  • Draw a line between teams and stakeholders. In the position, make a note of why you as a team depend on that stakeholder – try to keep it high.

  • As a team to understand the team around spider dependence on a weekly basis how are you going to deal with your dependency. Once, you have solved a dependency then move it to the solved column.

  • Review the notes of the solved post on a monthly basis to understand what lessons you learned as a team while overcoming that dependency.

Why

There are many tools you can use to manage your stakeholders. It becomes more difficult to explain to other people how you need to use your stakeholders to achieve team goals. By mapping dependencies the team is then able to determine why, how and when to engage with a particular stakeholder.

Waste work

Everything we do does not add value or contribute to our ultimate goal. It is important that you understand and be aware of where your efforts are being wasted. By gaining this insight you can develop a powerful approach to how you plan to waste the amount of your work. As we continue, I think it should be noted that no matter what you do, there will always be a time when you waste your work for various reasons. This tool is to help you understand how much time you have wasted and who is causing this waste in your daily life. I came across Waste Snake in a blog by Midzianoska brought to this tool. You can find the blog here: https://productownerblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/waste-snake/#jp-carousel-2145

So what is this …

Bad snake

Draw a snake on whiteboard / flipchart paper – it needs to be visible in your daily life. Whenever you encounter an activity that you consider a waste, write the following in a positive note:

Add post-brick notes to your snake. I would suggest if you are doing this activity on yourself, do it for at least two weeks. This will allow you to create some powerful metrics. If you are doing this as a team, the same duration will be suggested.

Two weeks later:

  • Category Your post-brick notes – You can do this on an individual level or at the team level

  • Calculate the time for each section

  • Make a list of your categories, which activities have taken you from the longest to the shortest.

  • For each section, there are 2 action points on how you can reduce the amount of time wasted in that section.

  • Choose two action points from your list and work on them for the next 4 weeks. Once you have tackled these two action points, you can either pick up another waste snake or pick more actions from your original list.

Why

It is important that you understand that the tasks you are taking on in your busy life do not add value to your ultimate goals. Once you’ve identified tasks, it’s important to get analytics to understand how much time is wasted on these activities. I believe as humans we react more to data then we make noise. For example, if I say that you wasted time making a presentation for a meeting that didn’t happen and that it cost you 6 hours a week. If you have those 6 hours, you can calculate what else you can do with those 6 hours.

You can do this activity individually or as a team. Anna talks to her team about making a waste snake at an earlier time

Pencil

Go, and try one of the above activities ….

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