In Lowering the Water Level Dan Markovitz over at Superfactory draws a sharp analogy between inventory levels in a factory and the time available to a knowledge worker:
“Imagine a value stream or a production process as a river. Reducing the inventory in the process – “lowering the water level” – exposes the “rocks” that represent all of the hidden costs and waste in production. Only by revealing those rocks can you improve the process and reduce the waste.
This metaphor works for knowledge workers, too. In this case, however, their key inventory item is time. Having too much time to do one’s work hides the waste and inefficiencies in the process”
Dan exhorts us to lower the water level by restricting the time we have available for knowledge tasks. Not only will this tackle Parkinson’s Law head-on, it will also encourage us to look for more efficient ways to carry out our regular tasks. And although I didn’t use the same metaphor as Dan uses,this is the motivation behind my ten-minute rules for software developers: restrict the time “allowed” between check-ins, for example, in order to discover new ways of incrementing the working system in small chunks.