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WIP It

Posted by Tim Ballard at March 19th, 2014

Are you like me? Do you work with at least 5 browser tabs open at once? Is one of those tabs your email account? CLOSE IT NOW. I’m sure you are having a mini panic attack just thinking about it. Really though, close it now. You will feel a wave of relief wash over you, I guarantee it. 

Not only will you feel better, you will be more productive. When you limit your WIP (work in progress) you reduce the number of tasks that you are working on concurrently. Limiting your WIP can increase your productivity exponentially. Constantly switching tasks throughout your day is called thrashing.  The literal definition of thrashing is a severe beating or physical assault. Hopefully you are not getting physically assaulted at work, but thrashing takes a toll on your mind. A substantial amount of mental energy is required to switch tasks. If you are switching tasks nonstop you will spend a lot of time getting very little done. 

There are several project management methodologies in software development. In today’s fast paced business environment Agile methodologies have become extremely popular. Buena Digital uses a mixture of Scrum and Kanban sometimes called Scrumban. We use a project management software tool to keep track of all open tasks, log time and communicate between developers and executive users. 

Our Scrumban board has the standard Kanban board columns “To do”, “Work in Progress”, and “Done”, as well as a column for “Open Questions”. The open question column is helpful because with several projects running concurrently, and no shortage of tasks, instead of creating a block in our task flow we mark the task in question and move on to work that can be completed while we wait for an answer. 

To limit WIP I prefer to use our office whiteboard instead of a software tool. Since we spend most of our day looking at a screen it feels great to be able to see our WIP on a physical board. At the beginning of this post I mentioned having several browser tabs open at once. It is easy to open up a tab, cycle between several tabs and close a tab at any moment. With our physical board, you can’t just click out of a task. It is front and center, constantly reminding you to complete your assigned tasks. There is also a feeling of accomplishment once you erase a task off the whiteboard that software tools just can't recreate. 

Category: Agile , Business , Project Management