Epiphanies for Everybody

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Assumption: When the Work is Done

March 04, 20221 min read

Assumption: When the Work is Done

Today’s assumption: Work is done when my team is finished with it.

This is a common misconception. If you’re delivering work to customers, you’re right — work is done when it’s in your customers hands. For everybody else, it’s different, but the same. Work isn’t done when it leaves your hands; work is only ever done when a customer can use it. Up until that point, the return is nothing — the work is all cost, no value.

Work is worth nothing, until a customer is using it. This is the basis for small batch sizes, agile’s principle of releasing regularly, Kanban, Lean, Theory of Constraints, and more. If you stop work part way through delivery, the money is still spent, but the return is zero. This is also why all of those approaches to work talk about doing one thing at a time. It’s because working on one thing at a time means finishing things as quickly as it’s possible to finish them, getting them to customers, and getting value from them.

It doesn’t matter how big your organisation is, if it does more than one thing at a time, and those things conflict with each other, you’re losing money. The more things you have in motion, the more conflicts, and the more money lost.

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