“One thing completed is worth ten things on hold.” – Dianna Booher
Most of our jobs entail delivering some sort of a widget to a customer. Ideally, we would be able to work on one task at a time. Finish it, then move on to the next task. Unfortunately, very few of us feel we have the luxury to work in this manner.
In our world, we have any number of distractions from bug reports to feature requests that compete for our time. Too often, what gets lost in this mix of pleasing the customer is actually returning value to the customer. It seems obvious, but a customer cannot begin to see value until the product is delivered. Take the following example:
Using single piece flow, you are delivering this set of features 8 days sooner:
Feature 1: 3.2 Days Sooner
Feature 2: 2.4 Days Sooner
Feature 3: 1.6 Days Sooner
Feature 4: 0.8 Days Sooner
Feature 5: Delivered at the same time.
Not only are you delivering your most important feature (presumably the one delivering the most value) three days sooner, you are not delivering any feature later. Overall, the Single Piece Flow yields a 32% increase on a company’s ROI. – if you’re interested in the math, feel free to shoot me an email.
An easy shot to take at the above methodology would be to criticize the efficiency in the hypothetical. Obviously, no shop is 100% efficient. In fact, most research points to a shop running anywhere north of 80% as pretty streamlined. That being said, there would be common waste among both project management techniques. In a single piece flow environment however, you are not nearly as exposed to four wastes that Lean methodologies warn against: Partially Done Work, Task Switching, Waiting, and Motion.
Depending on who you read, with three switches every day the multi-tasking team is losing an additional 10-25% of their efficiency.
Even using the most conservative numbers – 80% efficiency with multi-tasking only costing 10% – you’ll realize over 28% better numbers running tasks through one at a time. The math is pretty easy. If you can increase your company’s top line sales by getting billable features to customers quicker or reduce your costs by having less developers deliver the same work you’ll be in a much better position than you are today.
It’s simple: no product, no value. The quicker the product is delivered, the quicker value can be realized. Like Tom Demarco said, “There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back.”