Prioritization is a form of control over work entry. Tony Timbol (SPamCAST columnist, CEO of Agile Ready, and consultant) would call prioritization a guardrail for the work entry process. Unfortunately, work entry is not always a controlled process which highlights two of the few absolute truths about the world we live in.  

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In this week’s podcast, we speak with Mike Potter, CEO of Rewind.  Mike and I talk about the need to backup SaaS applications, remote and hybrid working, and entrepreneurship. This interview opened my eyes to the risks we all face by trusting SaaS application companies to back up our data. Mike also highlights in his answers how humanity in the workplace can help create special results.  

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This week’s chapter of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg. is Progress Incrementally. I was first exposed to the idea of incrementalism and timeboxing by my mother while helping (or voluntold) with the housework. I would vacuum rugs for about 5 minutes, have the work inspected, and then, invariably do some rework before moving off to the next timebox. As a child, I just assumed you should get feedback early in the process. I later ran into timeboxes in Champy and Hammer’s book Reengineering The Corporation. The idea was a revelation in the work environment I was in at the time.  In both cases the duration timebox was different, but the message was similar. If you break work up into smaller pieces you can assess progress, get feedback, can change tact or do something more important (this is where I ask Lakein’s question – “What is the best use of my time right now?”) much sooner than if you wait until your think you are done. On top of all of those benefits, increments also help people and teams to achieve focus. This week I have succeeded in turning off all my interruptions (Slack, Text, Teams, Twitter, email, and others) as I am doing my monotasking sessions, a type of incrementalism . . . at least in the morning. I do pop many of those apps back on briefly at the end of each panorama session to make sure no emergencies have occurred. Afternoons are tough due to meetings and other hardscape activities, therefore I moved as many of my focus activities earlier in the day (as a morning person, this suits me) when I can quietly timebox.

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There are three common scenarios that generate prioritization decisions outside of an individual or team’s span of control.

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This week’s chapter of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg. is Never Procrastinate. I have been working on procrastination and overcommitting my whole life. Compared to my 7th-grade self I have made step changes.  Even compared to my 2020 self, I do a better job at avoiding procrastination and overcommitting.  My five short list begins with the admonition: 

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Over the past few months, I have been in traffic jams on the highway several times when traveling to our weekly hike.  In more than one instance someone has decided to pull over and drive on the berm.  In more than a few cases the outcome of this technique for getting things done ends poorly. Despite the unpredictable outcome, jumping the queue is practiced by many in traffic and even more when funneling work to teams. The consequences when working on information technology products are far more predictable than driving, and they are ALWAYS bad. Let’s fix some of the problems leading to queue jumping.

We also have a visit from Susan Parente, who brings her I Am Not A Scrumdamentalist column to the cast.  We discuss risk management when using hybrid agile approaches. 

Contact Susan on LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/susanparente or at Parente@s3-tec.com

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Jumping the queue breaks the pipes!

Work Entry: Jumping the Queue

Over the past few months, I have been in traffic jams on the highway several times when traveling to our weekly hike.  In more than one instance someone has decided to pull over and drive on the berm.  In more than a few cases the outcome of this technique for getting things done ends poorly. Despite the unpredictable outcome, jumping the queue is practiced by many in traffic and even more when funneling work to teams. The consequences in information technology are far more predictable than driving, and they are ALWAYS bad.

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The second category of prioritization problems is risk tolerance mismatches. This category focuses on how organizations and teams balance the exposure of having people and resources in the wrong place or accepting work that fails to meet expectations. The process of work entry and prioritization matches the value and the risk of a piece of work to the needs of an organization. Every organization has a risk profile. Some organizations chase projects with very uncertain outcomes for high rewards.  SpaceX and Blue Origin are examples.  In the same industry, United Launch Alliance is far more risk-averse. The risk profile of the organization will impact the projects each firm takes. Accepting work that is outside of the risk tolerance yields stress and increases the likelihood of work that either does not meet the expected return or outright failure. Leading these types of projects can also be career limiting.  Three leading causes of mismatches are:

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In this week’s Software Process and Measurement Cast, I speak with Rob Rastovich, CTO of ThingLogix. We talked about meeting customer needs through developing solutions using the AIoT (not a typo).  This is a seachange for both businesses and developers who will need to reskill and rethink what is possible.

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In Chapter 2 of Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg, Staffan describes how to create a short list of five items and then to push everything else to the “grass catcher” list. I have been working on using this approach this week with a special focus on capturing the date an item was added to the list and the stakeholder for the item. In the past, I trimmed my list on a quarterly basis. I use the dramatic approach of starting a new list saving only those items on my short list. This week I tried Staffan’s weekly approach, trimming off a few older items on a weekly basis. The date added is useful but what I found more useful was asking myself the question, “am I really going to do this or is this an aspirational item?” Cue the chainsaw; even though I started a new list on July 1st I was able to remove several items from my new grass catcher list.

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