Explaining high WIP

I’ve been looking for a way to explain how high levels of work in progress create a slow pace of work, and maybe this video of Gary Kasaprov playing multiple chess games is it.

Eleven games in progress, but, because Gary is involved in all of them, only one is actually being played at any one time. That means, at any given time, ten games are waiting.

Now imagine if the eleven other players are also playing other games. Sometimes, when Gary gets to their board they aren’t there. Gary has to make a choice; wait for them or move onto to the next game. If he waits, this game can make the next move but all the other games are delayed. So Gary skips this game and moves to the next, thinking that it means only that game gets delayed.

It’s pretty inconvenient of Gary to play eleven people rather than ten as it makes the maths a bit more difficult, but here goes. Because Gary can only play one game at a time, only 9.09% of the work in progress is ever actively being worked on. 90.9% of the work is always waiting.

And if we add the time delay to that, we see that the 90.9% of work in waiting can’t proceed on a predictable schedule because we can never be sure the other player will be there when Gary is or whether that game misses a turn.

Now imagine if it wasn’t a two player game like Chess but a multi-player game like Monopoly. Lots more people involved. Lots more waiting for the right player to be at the right board at the right time. I don’t even want to try to figure out the maths for that.

That’s how high levels of work in progress create a slow pace of work.

Trying a new task app

Started using Google Tasks for simple to do reminders. Hope it stays simple.