Tag Archives: flow

A notification diet of one week


NotificationsWe check our mobile devices 214 times per day. In my case it’s mostly because it triggers my attention (and curiosity) with a notification. By disabling the notifications of the apps on my smart phone, I count on regaining more of my productivity and spending more time in flow. Read further to see why and how my one week of notification diet will start.

We check our mobile devices about 214 times per day. Of this day, there are about 8 hours of sleep, 1 hour washing & getting ready (for work, for bed), 1 hour getting my daughter ready (for school, for bed) and 1 hour or more driving to work. That means that I’m checking my mobile device 214 times in about 13 hours. Of these 13 hours, I’m 8 hours at work. So in theory, I’d check my mobile device 132 times at work.

There are several reasons why I’m triggered for checking my mobile device:

  • I’m bored.
  • I’m busy waiting (eg. commuting with the train).
  • I’m triggered by a notification of my mobile device.

For 1 and 2, it’s not an issue when I’m working on my mobile. The third is different. If you’re active in a few social networks, following many people online and participating in forums or group, you get quite some daily updates, all at what looks like random times. For example, a new post on your Facebook wall, a trending topic on Twitter, a new board added by your friend on Pinterest.

These notifications interrupt your current work and it’s very hard not to respond to them. It’s like your mobile saying “Hey, I’ve got something special for you”. But often when I look, it’s kinda disappointing. If I’m actually expecting news from somebody, than the notification is mostly not of them.

The interruptions make it hard to concentrate at work. It’s getting hard to get into flow, the most optimal state of work where things get done and time flies by. When you’re in a meeting or in a conversation, it’s tempting, nearly impossible, not to look at your mobile device upon receiving a notification. You never know what you could have missed… In the end, your productivity drops and you come across as a non-interested ass to your colleagues.

It’s time to take matters into my hands and regain my focus and my politeness. Let’s start with a notification diet of one week and see how things go.

A notification diet of one week

For one week, I’ll disable all my notifications on my mobile device. No more Facebook updates, no more trending Twitter tweets, no more GMail notifications. The sound and vibrate functions will be disabled. The only sound my mobile device will make, is when I get a text message or a phone call. I’m not off the grid, but if anyone wants to reach me, it’s possible and will be via a one-on-one connection.

First I wasn’t sure if I’d disable the notifications for (Facebook) Messenger, Snapchat or Whatsapp. These are also direct links to me personally and the difference with classic text messages is small. But while writing this blog I actually got a personal message, a notification, … and my focus was gone. It proved exactly my point, so they’re out too.

The goal of the notification diet is to regain focus and be more productive. The notifications will only be checked during breaks.

Catch you on the flip side!

Thanks at Robby Moors for making me aware of the loss of productivity!

Additional reading

How often do you look at your mobile device?

10 Smart Tips to Prevent Distractions and Sharpen Your Focus

Eliminate These 8 Things From Your Daily Routine

Flow, the secret to happiness (TeD talk)

PS: I’m also aware that this blog in some cases shows up as a notification on your mobile device. Thanks for reading it, now get back to your work 😉

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Kanban used for knowledge sharing


In the aftermath of the financial crisis, times remain hard and organizations struggle with balancing resources vs savings. When work volumes decline, head count will follow and this creates a knowledge gap. Profiles become more generic and the work floor needs to invest in knowledge building without budget for it.

We already described the use of kanban for setting priorities in “From push to pull for task assignments”. In this post we describe how almost the same kanban system can be used for building a shared knowledge base.

Example kanban board at kanbanflow.com

Example kanban board at kanbanflow.com

Kanban

The first steps to kanban are that teams make flows (value streams) of the work that progresses during their job.

To illustrate, typical IT work progresses from ToDo via Develop/Build to Test.

ToDo

Open

Functional Design

Technical Design

Develop/Build

Test

Test Customer

Deliver

The Kanban technique makes the whole process visible, but also adds certain constraints:

  • The number of concurrent tasks can be limited per phase, project and/or person.
  • There is priority queuing before tasks are taken up by the team.

An example of limiting concurrent tasks per phase:

ToDo

Open

Functional Design

Technical Design

Develop/Build

Test

Test Customer

Deliver

x

2

2

2

3

4

4

4

Priority queuing adds a step before the normal flow actual starts:

ToDo

Priority ToDo

Open

Functional Design

Technical Design

Develop/Build

Test

Test Customer

Deliver

x

4

2

2

2

3

4

4

4

The advantage of priority queuing is that it can be used together with the customer, but it can also be used for sharing knowledge.

Building a knowledge base

People tend to have the tendency to pick tasks that they know, that are familiar to them. The pitfall here is that after a while you get very specialized profiles. In good times this isn’t a problem because there’s work enough for everybody, but when times get rough and your team is decreased…

To overcome this pitfall, make the agreement with your team members that they also have to pick up tasks which are not their specialty. To give focus, you can assign one or two extra systems, languages, environments, … they can take up. To assist them in the process, assign a coach from the team which has the needed knowledge.

Make sure you follow-up in your team huddles to check what their experience is and where the approach can be adjusted.

Have fun!

Additional reading

Kanban & scrum – making the best of both

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Get into flow


FlowFlow is a term used for different concepts. The concept that is described here today is high performance work.

Everybody has moment when time flies by. You are working hard and for some reason, you become unaware of what is happing around you, the music you hear and the feeling of time passing by. You are working hard, you like it and things get done.

For getting into flow you need a lead time: you cannot just start right away with high performing. The lead time is estimated to be as high as 15 minutes, so switching between tasks can have a very negative effect of getting into flow and your productivity.

Here is where the problem lies in many cases at our work and even personal live. Our society is becoming more and more interconnected and next to colleagues asking questions, you now also have cell phone where people can reach you at any point in time by calling or texting. On a smart phone you even have notification for each new email, Facebook request and software update. Your email and agenda client at work (or even at home) is popping up for every new email or calendar notification.

Next to all these, you have the forums, blogs, news sites and communities you are following.

For the digital attention drawers there are some easy tips which you can apply:

  • Put your messenger offline when your dedicated to one task.
  • Disable email notifications on your email client and smart phone.
  • Disable other notifications on your smart phone (eg. Facebook, software updates, …)
  • Only enable reminders for meeting that you have to attend to. Limit the amount and time of reminders.

Team work?

But what about those colleagues that ask you questions every x minutes? You cannot ignore them because the team and team goal are important, but you also can’t devote all of your time to helping them with every question.

How to detect the problem?

First of all, keep your eyes and ears open for complaints from colleagues at the work floor. If you notice there is some frustration, you study it to estimate how big the problem is.

The DILO (Day In the Life Of) technique is a very useful activity study technique for capturing problems like these. Sit next to the employee for one day and capture all actions, requests, meetings, interrupts, … of the day. When he switches tasks add a lead time of, for example, 5 minutes to it and categorize it as non-value adding (waste). At the end of the day add up all the wastes and express it in percentage of time. When the numbers speak, you have a burning platform.

How to handle the problem?

Once you’ve got buy-in, you can start with discussing the problem. Do a root cause analysis to find the real causes of the problem: why are colleagues interrupting your work so much? Or SMARTer: “why are colleagues interrupting my work so I loose 1,5 hours each day by task switching?”.

Typical improvement actions range from coaching, peer coaching, training and mentoring for junior colleagues, product usage demonstrations by business and technical demonstrations.

In extreme cases, you can apply concepts like the cockpit and quarantine. The “cockpit principle” for example is used in the flying industry: during take off and landing the pilots need to be very focussed on achieving success and putting the plain up/down in a safe way. To ensure this the agreement is made not to speak during these critical moments with the only exception when safety is at risk.

In the Agile literature I’ve come across of some application of the cockpit principle where IT workers use flags, mascots and other indicators that they cannot be interrupt for a while, unless for really urgent problems.

But first, let’s look at the root causes before putting on your captain’s hat.

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The Voice Of the Customer process in practice


According to SurveyMethods.com “Voice Of the Customer” means:

The Voice Of the Customer are the needs, wants, expectations, and preferences, both spoken and unspoken, of business’s customers, whether internal or external. 

Examples of customer needs are a fast service, 24/7 support, no down time, 6 liter per 100 km gas usage, …

The customer is central to lean and the focus is set to adding value (and eliminating waste). When you’re in doubt at any point in time, just ask yourself:

Is the customer willing to pay for this?
Am I ready to go to the customer and just say: “Dear, we are spending x hours/euros at …, does that make sense to you?”.

So if you are up for the challenge: how can you start?

The VOC process

The main process flow for doing a VOC goes something like this:

1. Define your value proposition

The value proposition is the reason why you exist as an organization. Which added value does your company bring to the world? What are you adding to the masses? How do you make a difference?

An example:

When you’re running a computer shop, ask: what is your added value? What are you doing different from the other 1001 computer shops in your area? What’s your thing? Where are you good at?

2. Identify your direct and indirect customers

Who are your direct customers? And who are their customers? Don’t stop after the first question. Get to know your customer and make sure you know who is representing.

An example (continued)

When a customer arrives at your shop to buy a computer and asks for a “fast computer”. The first (direct) customer is obvious: he’s standing in front of you. Getting his needs & wishes is an easy one: just ask. But who is he also representing? Maybe his whole family is using the computer or he has an 18-year-old son who plays computer video games whole night long.

3. Collect VOC

Customer surveyPick your strategy: how are you getting the information from the customer? Are you doing a workshop, a survey, a software release evaluation? There are many tools & techniques available:

  • VOC collection: surveys, interviews, complaints, …
  • VOC tools: affinity diagrams, Kano, Critical To Quality (CTQ), Quality Function Development (QFD), House Of Quality, …

An example (continued):

Why does your customer need the computer? The same for the family he represents: why do they need the computer? Further, what is important to him? A good service, quick delivery, repairs at home, …? You can get answers by asking him (survey).

If you want to know more about all the customers of your shop, you need to take more surveys and maybe even do some market research.

4. Interpret VOC

Collecting VOC is one thing, but what does it mean? Often the customer uses common statements or uses another vocabulary than you’re used to.

An example (continued):

What does a “fast” computer mean? What does a “good” service mean? What does “quick” delivery mean? Make sure you understand what the customer is asking for. Interpret his needs & wants.  Try to understand what he’s saying. Keep an eye (and ear) open for unexpressed needs and wants.

5. Translate VOC

Customers tend to want everything at the highest possible quality but at the lowest price. This is not possible without sacrificing your company, so you need to make choices. Before you can make choice, be sure that you’re aware of the priorities. For setting priorities tools like Kano analysis and Critical To Quality (CTQ) can be used.

With the Kano analysis must-haves, linear satisfiers and delighters can be identified.

An example (continued):

What is more important: the latest processor chip or a stable system? A new operating system or the old one at a discount price? How can you delight your customer?

How do i now i’m doing the right stuff? To measure is to know!

VOC metrics

Following metrics can be used for checking upon the effectiveness of your VOC actions:

  • Customer survey
  • Release evaluation
  • Sales numbers
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Number of complains received each month
  • Number of compliments received each month
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