Less is more (and it scales) or SKIP THIS BLOG IF You HAVE TIME TO READ IT.

May 22, 2016 — Posted by Guy Beaver
The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life, by Leo Babauta, is a fantastic book about becoming more productive simply by doing less.  If you want to learn the secret to becoming more productive, "this is a how-to manual on how to simplify and focus on the essential.  How to do less while accomplishing more.”
 
This 170 page book is a quick read with a simple and elegant message.  Without being explicit, The Power of Less provides the reader with a foundational understanding of Lean Thinking, and its lessons scale and map to the same Lean-Agile approaches large organizations use align all work to business strategies.  The plain and simple point of this book is that to be more productive, you have to define and prioritize goals, and align all efforts toward meeting those goals by focusing on tasks and completing them one at a time.
 
It highlights our tendency to be spread too thin, only able to make incremental progress on too many goals and projects at the same time.  Instead we should seek daily alignment to a vision, and pick the three most important tasks to complete in order to make forward progress toward that vision.
 
Author Babauta suggests the following process steps in order to “focus on completion” (which is synonymous with Lean flow)
  • Have an outcome in mind.  How will you know when your project is complete?
  • Move from projects to tasks (because you aren’t working projects, you are working tasks)
  • Each day, choose a task to move you to completion
  • Reassess your progress
 
Babauta guides us with six simple principles to increase focus and improve productivity:
 
The Six Principles of Simple Productivity
 
1. Set limitations.
2. Choose the essential.
3. Simplify.
4. Focus.
5. Create habits.
6. Start small.
 
Let’s compare Babauta’s six principles to common Lean-Agile principles:
 
  1. Set limitations = Limit Work in Process.  If you want work to flow through an organization, it can’t compete with other work (otherwise the duration required to complete the work is increased, slowing down the completion of all work already in process.)
  2. Choose the essential = Drive from business value.  Have measurable goals explicitly defined and measured as initiatives, and focus on one at a time.
  3. Simplify = Remove all non-essential work, eliminate waste.
  4. Focus = well, Focus.  By limiting Work in Process, and focusing on completing work (rather than starting new work), effective productivity goes up because you are completing the tasks that matter.
  5. Create habits = Lean Standard Work, establish a baseline that can be constantly improved.
  6. Start small = You don’t work projects, you work tasks—tasks that are prioritized projects broken down into small, completable units.  Large chunks of work are risky, and should be decomposed into chunks small enough to be completed and evaluated daily.
 
We have to recognize that we often overload ourselves well beyond our capacity.  In order to raise productivity, we must prioritize activities and only start new work when higher priority work is completed.  Anything added to the current capacity must be accompanied by an equivalent subtraction, which is essentially the “Power of Less."
 
Worthwhile metrics to measure your “Power of Less” effectiveness includes:
  • how many projects/features/tasks were started but not completed?  
  • how many projects/features/tasks are in progress at the same time?  
 
To scale and normalize this will require measuring the number of projects/features/tasks that are open for each team.
 

So read The Power of Less and ask yourself, what is my organization focused on TODAY?  What can be stopped now so that the most important work can be completed? 
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About the author | Guy Beaver

Guy Beaver is VP of Enterprise Engagements and a Senior Consultant. He is a seasoned technology executive known for building Lean organizations that are driven by business priorities. With 30+ years experience in Financial Services, Aerospace, Health Care and eCommerce, his technology accomplishments include managing enterprise web development and delivery for world class transaction systems (16 Million users), large data center transitions, and SaaS operational excellence utilizing Lean IT practices. He is skilled at organizational change and is the co-author of Lean-Agile Software Development: Achieving Enterprise Agility.



        

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