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"Multitasking is Evil" & Other Games to Convince You (or your manager!) to Limit WIP

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For a long time multitasking was considered a must-have skill when, in fact, multitasking makes us less productive and more prone to error. But even with plenty of studies and papers supporting that idea, it can be hard to convince managers and stakeholders that we should be taking on less at a time. In this session, we'll run through 3 short simulations (Multitasking is Evil, Name Game, & Featureban) you can use to help make that case and show that lowering our work in progress is the way to go!

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"Multitasking is Evil" & Other Games to Convince You (or your manager!) to Limit WIP

  1. 1. excella.com @excellaco ”Multitasking is Evil” & Other Games to Convince You (or your manager!) to Limit WIP Julie Wyman and Mark Grove
  2. 2. excella.com | @excellaco Introductions
  3. 3. excella.com | @excellaco • 20+ years IT profession • Scrum and Kanban enthusiast • Amateur photographer and astronomer • 7+ years as an Agile Coach • Simulations for learning • Love to travel Mark Grove Julie Wyman
  4. 4. excella.com | @excellaco 1. Multitasking is Evil 2. Name Game 3. Featureban Agenda
  5. 5. excella.com | @excellaco Multitasking is Evil Game #1
  6. 6. excella.com | @excellaco Multitasking is Evil Multitasking is often seen as a desirable skill—you can buy books or pay to attend courses that will teach you how to do it—but it is a surprisingly debilitating idea. Slightly modified from:  https://www.agileconnection.com/article/multitasking-evil  Clarke Ching
  7. 7. Round 1 You are assigned three projects, which you work all at once. • Project 1: Write the letters A to M in the first column. • Project 2: Write the numbers 1 to 13 in the middle column. • Project 3: Write the Roman Numerals I to XIII in the third column. Complete the three columns, working row-by-row, across the page until you hit 13 for each column. Write down your time when you’re all done. A 1 I B 2 II
  8. 8. Round 2 You are assigned three projects, which you will work one at a time. • Project 1: Write the letters A to M in the first column. • Project 2: Write the numbers 1 to 13 in the middle column. • Project 3: Write the Roman Numerals I to XIII in the third column. Complete the three columns, working one column at a time, until you hit 13 for each column. Write down your time when you’re all done. A 1 I B 2 II
  9. 9. excella.com | @excellaco Debrief • Was your overall completion time faster in Round 1 or Round 2? • Did you make any mistakes when you multitasked? • Did you feel more stressed trying to complete the tasks? • Isn't real-life multitasking worse than this? • How does Agile help us “prevent” multitasking? • Do your teams multitask? • Facilitation tweaks?
  10. 10. excella.com | @excellaco Name Game Game #2
  11. 11. excella.com | @excellaco Name Game Quick but effective exercise to illustrate the perils and pitfalls of multitasking. Slightly modified from:  https://lithespeed.com/the-name-game-a-multitasking-game-for- agile-teams/  Arlen Bankston (shared by Peter Stevens)
  12. 12. Game Objective • Worker creates a name card for each Customer. • The exercise ends when all names have been recorded. • Need volunteers to capture the best and worst times.
  13. 13. Round 1 Goal: The Customer whose name is completed first “wins”. Instructions: When the time starts, all Customers begin shouting their name at the Worker (one letter at a time) and the Worker starts writing them down. Volunteers capture the time when the first and last name are completed.
  14. 14. excella.com | @excellaco Round 1 Debrief  How did this round feel – for the Worker? For the Customers?  Was this at all similar to the way prioritization works at your company (e.g. the squeakiest wheel gets the grease)?  What were the best and worst completion times?
  15. 15. Round 2 Goal: Worker creates a name card for each Customer. Instructions: The Worker will write each person’s name one letter at a time in a round robin fashion. Volunteers will again time how long it takes the Worker to write the names.
  16. 16. excella.com | @excellaco Round 2 Debrief  How did this round feel – for the Worker? For the Customers?  Was this an efficient approach?  Are there any forms of waste?  What were the best and worst completion times?
  17. 17. Round 3 Goal: Worker creates a name card for each Customer. Instructions: The Worker chooses the order of Customers to service. The Worker writes each Customer’s name in its entirety before moving on to the next. Volunteers will again time how long it takes the Worker to write the names.
  18. 18. excella.com | @excellaco Round 3 Debrief  How did this round feel – for the Worker? For the Customers?  Was the capacity clearer?  Could this work even better?  What were the best and worst completion times?
  19. 19. excella.com | @excellaco Featureban Game #3
  20. 20. excella.com | @excellaco Featureban Simple, fun, and highly customizable Kanban simulation game. Slightly modified from:  https://www.agendashift.com/featureban - Mike Burrows  Supplementary facilitation instructions – David Kane
  21. 21. Set up the Kanban Board
  22. 22. Complete Setup Each team member puts one feature card in the ‘Ready’ column of the board. Make sure to initial it first, and put a 0 next to Begin Day. Deal 10 cards to each team member. Keep these cards in a stack face down in front of you as we begin.
  23. 23. At the end of each day (i.e. turn) update the metrics sheet with how many items are in each column When an item is finished, put the day (i.e. turn) it completed in the End Day box, and update the metrics sheet On a Black Card… • If available, block one of your own currently unblocked work items in progress (i.e., mark it with a ‘B’). You can’t block items that are already done. • AND, if able, start a new work item by selecting one from the backlog pile. • Put your initials on it • Log the current day (i.e. turn) in the Begin Day box • Place it in the Ready column. • If you can’t block one of your own items, but you can start a new work item, go ahead and start a new work item. • If unable to start a new work item, you can advance someone else’s unblocked work item, one column to the right. On a Red Card … • Advance work item one column to the right. • If it reaches Done, put the current day (turn) in the End Day box on the card • OR, unblock a work item that is blocked (i.e., scratch through the ‘B’) • OR, start a new work item by selecting one from the backlog pile. • Put your initials on it • Log the current day (i.e. turn) in the Begin Day box on the card • Place it in the Ready column. • OR, when you have no other option for your own work items, you can apply one of the options above to another team member’s work item
  24. 24. excella.com | @excellaco Round 1 Debrief  What was your team’s throughput?  What was your median lead time?  Did you observe any parallels between the game and your actual work?  How did you work as a team?  What could improve flow?
  25. 25. Round 2 • Work as a team to set work in progress (WIP) limits • Set limits for each state on the Kanban Board • Ready, Stage 1, Stage 2 • WIP limits can be whatever you agree upon
  26. 26. excella.com | @excellaco Round 2 Debrief  What was your team’s throughput?  What was your median lead time?  What was the impact of your WIP limits?  How did you work as a team?  What could improve flow?
  27. 27. excella.com | @excellaco Example Cumulative Flow Diagram 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ready Stage 1 Stage 2 Complete :-) No WIP Limits Completed: 2 First Completed: 7 Average Time to Complete: 6.5 Source: David Kane, Hobsons
  28. 28. excella.com | @excellaco Example Cumulative Flow Diagram WIP Limits: 1/1/1 Completed: 4 First Completed: 1 Average Time to Complete: 4 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ready Stage 1 Stage 2 Complete :-) Source: David Kane, Hobsons
  29. 29. excella.com | @excellaco Example Cumulative Flow Diagram WIP Limits: 1/2/2 Completed: 4 First Completed: 1 Average Time to Complete: 5.5 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ready Stage 1 Stage 2 Complete :-) Source: David Kane, Hobsons
  30. 30. excella.com | @excellaco Overall Debrief
  31. 31. excella.com | @excellaco Overall Debrief  What other games are you aware to highlight the impact of high WIP and multitasking?  How could you use these three games at work?  Who could benefit from them?  What tweaks would you make?  What’s important to keep in mind as a facilitator?

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