Productivity is a flow, not a stock

I just noticed that it is February, and I already can see I will publish at least seven book reviews this year, already tying my best year so far (2016). If I keep my pace up, I should be able to knock off between 15 and 20. This is happening as I am limiting the number of book reviews I take on.

And I did this following the kanban idea of limiting work-in-progress, to create flow and avoid waste. I realized that the economic distinction between stocks and flows in economics can clarify what is going on here.

Too many people, including me a year ago, confuse having a large stock of jobs in progress with productivity. In this view, to be productive is to be busy. If I was juggling six book reviews, "Boy," I thought, "I sure am productive!"

But productivity is a flow, not a stock! What matters is not how many things you are up to, but how many finished products* are coming out of your "workstation." And perhaps paradoxically, we can often increase our flow by decreasing our stock: our work tends to behave somewhat like a highway: the highway can deliver more cars from point A to point B by putting more cars on the highway, up to a certain point. But beyond that point, we start to get traffic jams, and if we fill the highway with as many cars as it will fit, traffic comes to almost a complete stop.

If you want to be productive, aim to maximize the flow of work through your hands, not the amount of work you take on.



* Or at least products with your part finished, if you work in cooperative production of some final product.

Comments

  1. Oh? You mean these book reviews? Nice "personal" workflow.

    https://gcallah.github.io/DevOps/books.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. And another thing! The name of this blog hasn't changed in quite some time!

    ReplyDelete

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