I saw a post on Knowledge Jolt With Jack, discussing a book called Making Work Visible: Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work & Flow, by Dominica DeGrandis.  DeGrandis identifies five time-theft “thieves:”

  • Too much work-in-process.
  • Unknown dependencies.
  • Unplanned work
  • Conflicting priorities.
  • Neglected work

I know these thieves all too well.  Even when you have set your business plan and factored in time to account for the thieves, then can trip you up. I think one the more common yet unexpected conditions that allow the thieves to thrive is the enthusiasm tsunami. People get so excited about what you are going to do that they start building and building and building upon it—before you have even executed.  The enthusiasm around what is possible, as opposed to what is being done, causes the initial project to grow tendrils and vines that snake into other areas before you have the chance to rein things into a reasonable state.  Then the thieves secure their foothold and stall movement forward.

The way to combat the thieves, according to DeGrandis, is to make work visible and to publicize what prevents work from flowing.  This is harder than it sounds.  It means being very exposed and vulnerable to criticism (from both that pesky inner critic and those outer ones as well). It means being confident, but not over-invested in your design and work system.  You must be willing and able to scrap it if a better solution presents itself.

DeGrandis suggests using a Kanban approach to enhance visibility.  I’ve never heard of Kanban and there is much more I need to learn about it, but the core principles, according to the blog are:

  • Start where you are now.
  • Agree to incremental change.
  • Respect all the current systems.

I had to sit back and appreciate the beautiful simplicity of the approach and how it subtly restrains the enthusiasm tsunami.  But like most simple solutions, it requires devoted and difficult practice.  It is so easy for your team, your evangelists, your clients, market forces or firm culture to influence outcomes. While your incremental goal gets project seedlings to germinate, influencers are already pushing for a mature garden, or maybe a completely different landscape entirely, jeopardizing progress.

I equivocate application of the core Kanban principles to the practice of yoga.  It is indeed a practice and there will be successful days and days that are less successful.  But as a mindful and continued yoga practice builds a stronger mind and body, it is the same mindful practice of Kanban principles that prevents the time thieves from taking over.