Books and work

All IT professions should know of Eli Goldratt’s The Goal. Perhaps they don’t know that they should. That 1980 novel, was about turning around a manufacturing plant. There’s a modern update with The Phoenix Project) by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford. The Phoenix Project (also a novel written in 2013) is better for us, as it focuses an broken IT department of a larger operation. I have read and listened (Audible) to both.

Work is either planned or unplanned. For us in IT, we are most likely going to use a ‘story tracker’ for planned work, and an issue tracker or ‘trouble ticket’ system for unplanned. Planned work can be projects, milestones, epics, stories or tasks. Those have relationships to each other, and are hopefully detailed on a just in time basis. Unplanned work is interruptive of planned work, even if it is described in detail in the solid industry practices of IT Service Management (ITSM).

Planned (backlogged cards) and unplanned (tickets) are therefore in conflict. Unplanned work impedes the flow of planned work, by diverting resources. We don’t want that, so minimizing it is key. QA-Automation, DevOps and other practices come together for that. Repetitive manual actions are also impeding of flow for the same reason, so automation should be applied as widely as possible (hello Continuous Delivery, Infrastructure as Code and others). Anyway, ‘Lean’ is a major industry and Agile-related smaller discipline.


For many years, I’ve forwarded people to some lovely Flash animations from a now out of business Australian company called TOCCA. Steve said we were not to like Flash anymore, so with the permission of David Hodes, I have run the Flash animations through Swiffy, and embedded them here:

TOC for an office operations team

Click on the animation to advance it at certain moments:

TOC for a manufacturing production line


The Oiled Wheels Approach

Kevin Behr recently directed me to Arrie van Niekerk’s video of a fantastic real-life visualization of a literal flow:

Excel based ‘Balanced Line Dice Simulator’

(April, 2019: update)

Dr Kelvyn Youngman made a simulation in Excel here, and has a bunch of articles pushing the TOC science.

The search continues

I’m still hoping to find a visualization that incorporates more of the interruptive nature of unplanned work. If anyone has anything, can they let me know :)


September 26th, 2016