Dec 16 – Slow down, to speed up


Very counter-intuitive but in many situation we first need to slow down to be able to speed up. How come?

Let us take traffic here in Stockholm as an example. The main traffic artery going around Stockholm is called Essingeleden. Every few hundred meters or so over the roadway you will find a dynamic traffic sign that look like this.


The purpose of this dynamic traffic sign is to improve the flow of traffic. This often done by lowering the recommended speed. How can this improve flow? By slowing down the speed the drivers can more easily keep and more even speed and even distance between the other vehicles. Less need for fast accelerations and breaking. This will reduce unwanted variation. When we have high utilization of the resources in a process variation will have a great impact of throughput. By lowering the speed and therefor also lowering the variation the throughput of Essingeleden will actually go up.

How do we translate this to knowledge work?

The basic laws that determines the performance of Essingeleden also apply to knowledge work processes. If we have knowledge work processes that have rush hour traffic like conditions (people in the process are busy working on high priority work all day) then variation in the size of the work, arrival rate and availability of people will have a great negative impact on the lead-time and throughput of the process.

Lowering the variation of size of the work is not necessarily a good thing in knowledge work. In many cases we don’t have control of arrival rate either. Then the only have availability of people left to work with. Then how do we lower the variation on availability of people? Well the simple answer is, we need to have slack in the system. The utilization of the people in the knowledge work process has to be brought down.

Slow down = Lower the utilization of people

This is my Lean/Agile Advent Calendar. I will publish a short post on a Lean/Agile topic every day up until Christmas. I will based each days topic on what is behind the door in the LEGO® City Advent Calendar.  So be sure to check back every day!

DISCLAIMER: LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this post and blog in any way.

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