Can You See It?

There were some great discussions at this week’s TVSMC meet up about observing and visualising work, particularly in talking with Simon Bostock. The challenge is that “knowledge work” isn’t as visible as “traditional work.” If I am ploughing a field, it is pretty obvious when I am half way through, and it is also obvious to my boss that I’ve ploughed half a field – or not ploughed half, if you are a glass half-empty type! Knowledge work doesn’t play that way. There are some great insights via a post from Jim McGee, although I’d beg to differ on a few points. Specifically, I believe that social technology can help to restore the organisational learning that has been lost in the transition to knowledge working, and that we can actually visualise our workload.

Will You Get  it Done?

Since we added the new dashboard into Milestone Planner, I’ve noticed an interesting change in the way that I work, and view work. There’s a couple of powerful, but not immediately obvious, things about the three stacks: completedin progress and not-started/upcoming. At the Milestones Level, I can tell if I am in trouble or not. In my dashboard here, it’s pretty obvious I am in trouble!

I’ve completed 5 milestones in the last week (the default range of the dashboard), I have 39 due now, and 33 due soon. So, my historical work rate is 5 milestones per week – If there are more than that upcoming in the next week, then I am clearly in a spot of bother! That’s assuming that the Milestones require the same level of effort of course, and here is where the second set of stacks comes it – actions. At the actions level I am doing pretty well. I’ve burnt my way through 34 actions in the last seven days, I am working on 18 in progress, and I have 48 not started. The ratio between completed and In Progress does suggest I’ve probably got a few too many on the go at once, and the ratio between the number of upcoming Milestones and actions not started suggests I might want to look at those upcoming Milestones and see if some of them need breaking down into actions.

There’s much more to do of course – and I don’t just mean my work! – but it is interesting how useful visualising our workload can be. Balancing what we have coming up, relative to what we have achieved, is a great way of compensating for the overconfidence bias that all of us have. We can offset how we overestimate our ability to predict future events, but looking at our past performance. Just because you believe that you can do it, doesn’t mean that you can. You really don’t want to end up like the guy in this video!

[Backstory on the video here, with kind thanks to tvsmc regular Alec Muffett, and to Jamillah Knowles]

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Milestone commitments to renegotiate!