This is post 3 in a series of articles on using LEAN to streamline your GTD system.
To map a value stream is quite an experience. Doing it with something as personal as your GTD system is a real eye-opener.
In this case, I started with the benefits that I want to get from my GTD-system, described in yesterdays post.
- Capture Ideas
- Efficiency & Control
- Connecting purpose and tasks
My method was very simple, and not at all as sophisticated as the usual ways of mapping production systems in LEAN. But I figured this was okay for this experiment. I welcome suggestions from experienced LEAN people.
Just grab a bunch of memos and start mapping. Get all the things up there. Your project list. Your capture tools, get them up there. It took me about an hour, and the result was this:
The text is in danish, and quite small, but you can check it out on Flickr, where I have added notes, describing the flow in detail. Just click the picture.
In a simplified way, the flow can be viewed like a connected stream that splits up into smaller streams, each representing a unique benefit. The components upstream at the start (like capturing) are beneficial for the whole system, but some of the components (like the tickler file) is closely connected to one stream (in this case the benefit of uncluttering).
This image describes the 4 streams of my GTD System:
There are four streams of benefit:
- The stream of capture - utilizing capture tools to get every idea captured for later use.
- The stream of efficiency - ends in tools that make me able to decide what actions to take... actionlists & calendar.
- The stream of purpose - on the other side of reviews (weekly, monthly, quarterly). Lets me decide on project-level what to spend my energy on.
- The stream of uncluttering - Let's me get stuff out of the way, into the dustbin, the reference archive or the tickler file. It frees up energy.
Having this map of my GTD-system made it possible for me to make a couple of immediate changes, where the system wasn't flowing.
A queue in the stream of efficiency
Most obvious was processing. Originally I made the processing of stuff at my computer. This was made in a typical batch & queue proces. I would capture and collect lots of stuff, and then proces once a day. I would type everything into my todo-lists in outlook at the computer and then print a list and put it in my organizer.
The LEAN principles teach us to get rid of these waiting areas in the system. This is because it is wasteful to have inventories of stuff along the way. It also ads lead-time.
This makes sense as it becomes obvious that the stream of efficiency is running through the area of processing. If processing isn't totally up to speed, then the overview and focus at the end of the stream of efficiency is out of sync with reality. Critical actions will get stuck in the queue, waiting for processing, while you're picking actions from an outdated actions list.
Under normal circumstances, when the normal processing routine is functioning... no problem, but in times of stress, this is bad, because one of the most basic benefits of GTD, namely the overview and being able to pick relevant actions in the moment, gets out of sync with reality.
The Uncluttering and Purpose streams also run through the processing area, but the value of these streams were less connected with speed. But the stream of efficiency needs to flow FAST!
So I began to consider how to break down the first in first out, queue and batch mode of my processing. I decided to use another LEAN principle: The introduction of flow.
Introduction of flow in the stream of efficiency
So I decided to break down the waiting area in the stream of efficiency. And this is how I did it.
Up until now, my primary actionlist had been on the computer, with a paper copy in my levenger circa organizer. This paper copy was handy, when I was on the move.
Now I made the levenger paper copy the primary list. This gave me the benefit of being able to enter things into my action list everywhere.
So from now on, when an idea popped into my head, instead of capturing it onto a notepad or into my memo-recorder on the phone, I instead ask myself: "is it acitionable?" If it is a discrete task, then it goes onto an circa-punched index card, with a relevant context, this goes directly into my actionslist in my paperbased levenger organizer.
So instead of putting somewhere in an inbox, for later processing, I immediately decide if it's actionable, and if it is, it goes straight into the efficiency stream and onto my actionlists.
I still use the computer todolist. It's handy for tasks originating from the computer (mails and such), but it's not a plug in the system any more. I now primarily use the computer to tidy up the handwritten lists. Sometimes it's nice to have a neat fresh actions-list to churn from.
It was a small change, but a significant one. Now I have the benefit of efficiency and overview all the time. And since this stream is one of the key values in my system it was well worth the change.
A couple of other things
Having my GTD value stream on this map also made use my project reference material differently, and store it in another way. And there's a couple of other minor things I have mended as well.
Tomorrow we'll look at introducing another lean principle in the GTD system. The principle of PULL. Never making anything until it's needed.