If you’re leading a team grappling with the unpredictable ebb and flow of delivery times, you’re most certainly in a mix of emotions – annoyance, impatience, disappointment.

As the captain of this ship, your thoughts are a whirlwind. The stress is hitting both you and your team as you navigate through uncertain waters. The shifting priorities and inevitable delays are making planning seem impossible.

This impacts your outcomes heavily. It’s like trying to drive a car without knowing the destination. You’re running out of patience, seeking some routine in this chaos. Predictability seems like a far-off luxury.

In the midst of this, your team is right there with you, dealing with the same frustrations, anxiety, and helplessness. The constant load of new requests is casting shadows on their efforts.

You’re thinking, “I’m at the mercy of these delays. I’m losing control.” Your thoughts steer your actions. Unknowingly, the stress cooker is causing you to push your team harder as if you’re expecting them to sprint a marathon. The urgency to find solutions mirrors your impatience. In the midst of this frenzy, your communication falters.

This emotional journey is playing out in your decisions. The whirlpool of your thoughts makes you overlook your team’s stress, leaving them feeling adrift. The ideas that could potentially untangle this mess stay unsaid. Your team wonder if they’re in this boat alone.

It doesn’t have to be like this!

There is a world where your feelings of annoyance and frustration are replaced with relief. There is a world where your team experience the relief of having a consistent flow of work, eliminating the frustration that once came with unexpected delays.

While the pursuit of consistency might no longer be necessary, you can now focus on optimizing workflows, adapting to changes that you know are part of the journey.

Change no longer feels daunting; instead, you meet it with confidence.

You entrust your team members with unwavering trust, allowing them to flourish and take ownership of their responsibilities.

The good news? This transformation starts with a very simple but tremendously effective strategy!

How to Enable Predictable Delivery Times in 2 Easy Steps

Achieving predictable delivery times is not magic. Here are two easy steps you can follow to start building a reliable delivery system.

Step #1: Stop Starting and Start Finishing

If you haven’t already, consider setting up Work in Progress (WIP) limits. To keep this simple from the get-go, start by implementing a straightforward policy like “Finish before starting.”

How does this work? This policy encourages your team to complete existing tasks before introducing new ones. It effectively reduces the workload in progress at any given time. This shift in focus prompts everyone to prioritize finishing tasks over starting new ones and thus reduce the waiting time in your workflow.

Spoiler alert! Reducing the waiting time in your process is the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to improve your cycle times!

Step #2: Track and Manage the Age of Your Work

“What gets measured gets improved,” the adage says.

During your daily calls, begin tracking the time items spend in progress. A simple approach to gauge the age of work items is to calculate the time from the moment a task moved in progress up until the current moment. The objective is to track and reduce the average age of your work to an optimal level.

Use the Aging Chart to identify the work items with the highest WIP ageUse the Aging Chart by Nave to track the age of your work in progress

Here is the thing. The WIP average age and cycle time are essentially the exact same thing, only cycle time is measured against completed tasks, whereas the age of a task is a measure concerning tasks that are still in progress.

Your cycle time metric doesn’t take into account your current WIP. Although you might have a very low average cycle time, if your tasks sit and age in the process, and eventually get released, your average cycle time will skyrocket. This is why it is so important to track your average age of WIP, and regularly compare it against your average cycle time.

So, what does it mean to effectively manage the WIP average age?

It means that the ticket with the highest WIP age has the highest priority. Your team commits to moving this task through the process quickly. If it encounters a roadblock, they investigate the cause. If the assigned person is unavailable or a third-party issue arises, they step in to address it (or escalate if necessary).

The cornerstone here is that, whatever the solution you find, you are bringing down your WIP average age by attacking the work that’s aging artificially in your workflow to stabilize your delivery times.

The more stable your system is, the more predictable it becomes. And predictable systems produce reliable delivery forecasts.

That’s all for now. I’ll see you again next week, same time and place for more managerial goodness. Bye!

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