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Let It Flow: Using Flow Metrics to Combat Cognitive Overload

Do conflicting priorities and interruptions disrupt your week? Is your calendar crammed with back-to-back meetings? If you are already overloaded and continue to take on more work, it’s likely you’re stressed. Stress impacts cognitive functioning - making it onerous to focus on and complete important work. While cognitive overload is difficult to measure, the impact is huge.

How can the impacts of stress be measured--and communicated? In this on-demand webinar, Tasktop Principal Flow Advisor, Dominica DeGrandis, presents actionable takeaways to address cognitive overload including:
- How to enable discussion for improvements using Flow Distribution and Flow Load
- How to allocate capacity for debt work by initiating “Flow Protection Time”
- How to put conditions in place for data-driven experimentation

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Let It Flow: Using Flow Metrics to Combat Cognitive Overload

  1. 1. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Let It Flow Using Flow Metrics to Combat Cognitive Overload Webinar Dominica DeGrandis Principal Flow Advisor
  2. 2. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop What’s the point? • Protect your time & capacity • Focus on most important work • Combat cognitive overload
  3. 3. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Cognitive Load – The amount of working memory being used • Information held in your working memory long enough to pass into long-term memory • Working memory capacity is limited • Stress impacts cognitive functioning
  4. 4. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop The Problem
  5. 5. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Why Cognitive Overload Matters • The more projects & initiatives, the more WIP & conflicting priorities • Stress impacts cognitive functioning, reducing performance and increasing probability of burnout
  6. 6. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Poll: When do you do your most important work? A) During business hours B) After business hours C) Weekends D) When on the couch while the kids watch a movie
  7. 7. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop • Enable discussion for improvements using Flow Distribution & Flow Load • Allocate capacity for Debt work - Initiate “Flow protection Time” • Put conditions in place for data-driven experimentation 3 things to do about Cognitive Overload Help teams get their head above water.
  8. 8. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop 1) Enable discussion for improvement using Flow Distribution & Flow Load
  9. 9. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop
  10. 10. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop = WIP • Flow Load: WIP started, but not finished • Arrival rate is faster than departure rate • 30-day baseline marker • Avg WIP is 121 • WIP of 10 per person – make sense?
  11. 11. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop It doesn’t matter how big or small something is when you can really only focus on one complicated thing at a time. When it’s done, you move on to the next thing.
  12. 12. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop • As WIP grows, so does wait time • 24% – 32% for feature work items • 33 out of 101 work items waiting
  13. 13. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop • As WIP grows, so does wait time • 43 – 61% for Debt work items • 24 out of 39 work items in waiting
  14. 14. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Flow Load impacts Flow Velocity and Flow Time
  15. 15. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop
  16. 16. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop • What are the tradeoffs? • What is the intended strategy? • If you continue to do more feature work, expect that it will take capacity away from doing debt work.
  17. 17. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop • Context influences strategy • Does a big feature release result in high defects?
  18. 18. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop 18 Flow Distribution WIP Allocation - Context influences strategy (3) (1) (5) (5) WIP limit Line of commitment • WIP limit of 14 • Combat cognitive overload by setting WIP limits • Decision to allocate capacity for 1 risk, 3 debt, 5 defects, 5 features items • But only feature & defect work make it to done (value delivered) • When features jump the queue, debt and risk work is neglected
  19. 19. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Enable Responsible Communication
  20. 20. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop 2) Allocate capacity for debt work – initiate flow protection time on calendar
  21. 21. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Busy overloaded calendar – back-to-back meetings – zero white space
  22. 22. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Experiment with Flow Days Flow Protection Time
  23. 23. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Find nuggets of uninterrupted time Interruption Busters Office hours Pomodoro’s
  24. 24. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop “Lighten cognitive overload. Software that is too big for our heads works against organizational agility. Limit the size of software to the cognitive load that the team can handle.” Manuel Pais Matthew Skelton Take a socio-technical approach: Evolve to product teams with less context switching
  25. 25. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Teams Project Product Project 1 Project 2 Project 3 Product 1 Product 2 Product 3 People are brought to work Big batch of work handed off to other teams to sustain, as resources run off to next project Work is brought to People Product team longevity & stability - domain knowledge stays with product team driving biz value “Project-oriented management frameworks work well for creating bridges and data centers, but are woefully inadequate for surviving the turning point of the Age of Software.” ~ Mik Kersten Interchangeable resources Knowledgeworkers
  26. 26. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Teams Project Product Project 1 Project 2 Project 3 Product 1 Product 2 Product 3 People are brought to work Big batch of work handed off to other teams to sustain, as resources run off to next project Work is brought to People Product team longevity & stability - domain knowledge stays with product team driving biz value “Project-oriented management frameworks work well for creating bridges and data centers, but are woefully inadequate for surviving the turning point of the Age of Software.” ~ Mik Kersten Interchangeable resources Knowledgeworkers
  27. 27. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop 3) Put conditions in place for data-driven experimentation
  28. 28. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Healthy cultural habits to enable experimentation conditions • Let teams design their experiments, set their own goals and targets • Start small – bld partnerships - find the "coalition of the willing” • Ask your internal customers what they would like to see improve • Create conditions of focus - address interdependencies between te • Bring forward the measurement of business • Ensure teams have visibility into the value they are delivering
  29. 29. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop 29 Experiment on One Page “Remember that 100% certainty is not the goal and it's rarely achievable - what is the smallest experiment you could run that might reduce uncertaint ~ John Cutler
  30. 30. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop
  31. 31. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Poll: What kind of culture does your organization have? A) Pathological B) Bureaucratic C) Generative D) Mix of A & B E) Not sure, but I’m always the last to know what’s going on
  32. 32. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Psychological safety“Wherever there is fear, you will get wrong figures.” ~ W Edwards Deming Psychological safety predicts software delivery performance and organizational performance https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it “There’s no team without trust.” ~ Paul Santagata Head of Industry at Google
  33. 33. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Flow Safety: A measure of trust •On my team failure causes inquiry and not blame •Our leadership is open to hearing bad news •In my org, failures are learning opportunities and people aren’t ridiculed •People on our team trust one another
  34. 34. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop You can get a healthier culture AND increase business value! https://mindworks.org/blog/does-meditation-improve-memory/
  35. 35. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop What’s the Point? • Increase business value AND your health • Find the “coalition of the willing” • Influence change using flow metrics • Protect your Flow hours • Put conditions in place for psychological safety & experimentation
  36. 36. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Q & A
  37. 37. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop Start Learning with Flow Institute Start understanding more about the concepts of flow and how to apply Flow Metrics with: • On-demand courses • Interactive workshops • Executive Roundtables flowframework.org/flow-institute
  38. 38. Master Software at Scale © 2020 Tasktop

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