What would happen if you stopped being busy all the time? I have the feeling this might turn out to be a really important question, both for myself and for the people I work with, especially those in the Agile world.
There’s been a fair amount written about how being busy seems to be a kind of addiction. It’s certainly habit forming, and it’s almost certainly harmful in excess.
But whatever your level of busyness is, obviously, isn’t excessive. Any more than mine is excessive for me 🙂
That’s fine, of course. Nobody’s likely to stage an intervention to tell us to stop doing useful stuff – to help people, to make money, to create interesting products and services, to build relationships, to save the planet…
Or are they? This week, my new friend Paul Klipp gave me a new, very credible explanation for why our addiction to busyness really matters.
He’s a kanban expert. One of the key principles of kanban in a work team is to limit the number of things in progress at any time: to set a “WIP limit”. It’s easy to demonstrate that when you “stop starting and start finishing”, the team gets more stuff done overall.
But here’s the thing. When you set a WIP limit for the team, one of the consequences is that some people will sometimes stop being busy. They’ll have “slack time”. That’s because Kanban optimises for getting things done, not for maximum resource usage.
Facing the challenge of quiet time at work, people protest. “What do you expect me to do? Just sit and read a book?” they say. And Paul’s answer to that is “yes” (once you’ve offered your help to other team members and there’s no more you can do). He says at one time he used to read a book in the middle of the office for an hour a day, just to make the point.
Some of the protesters might be afraid of getting the sack if the boss sees them slacking. But I wonder if the truth may have more to do with the withdrawal of their “drug”.
If we really are addicted to being busy, the withdrawal of busyness will force us to face whatever we’re running way from. That might be our “demons”, or just discomfort. I certainly find it deeply uncomfortable to be bored!
That means that if – as a manager, an Agile coach, a scrum master or whatever – you’re going to ask your staff to stop the busyness, you need to be ready to handle the consequences. You’ll want to be equipped as a “first responder” to individuals who may be in (hopefully mini) crisis at work.
That’s when some Clean Language coaching skills might come in handy!
- Does this post resonate with you? Any examples? Or am I talking nonsense? Please comment below.