I Hate Zipper Merges!

Zipper merges drive me insane.

The highway has a sudden bottleneck – one minute you’re driving with several lanes open, and suddenly six lanes collapse into four or two.  And while some people politely wait their turn to merge, aggressive drivers pass everyone up and zip into the merge lane at the last minute. (It’s infuriating, but actually, that’s also totally correct.) The result is often road rage, loud horns, and naughty language.

Similar circumstances often occur in business, and it’s just as frustrating. Too much work in progress almost inevitably results in bottlenecks and delivery time delays. To clarify, let’s continue with the highway analogy. Imagine your workflow is like a highway. If there are only two lanes downstream, it’s counterproductive to have six, eight, or even more lanes upstream – because traffic will eventually need to be squeezed into two lanes. It makes more sense to have only two lanes throughout the process.

The same principle applies in business.

Companies that take on more work than they can handle will inevitably find themselves failing to deliver on all their commitments. The resulting bottleneck is frustrating to both customers and workers alike. The solution may seem counterintuitive at first – limit the amount of work in progress. Creating a Kanban board can facilitate the process of visualizing work in progress, and ensure that only a few work “lanes” are in progress at the same time. Visualization on a Kanban board can also make it easier to see where things are getting stuck.

kanban board

Even with a Kanban board, limiting work in progress seems simple but is not easy. There are often disagreements about which projects should have priority. Workers whose work is on hold or deprioritized may feel that their job security is threatened. However, this challenge can be circumvented by exercising flexibility in how team members are assigned. For instance, rather than having six team members assigned to work upstream but only two team members assigned to work downstream – reassign some of the six members to work downstream.

Much of the time, simple reassignments like this are all that is needed to improve software delivery times. It’s possible to cut delivery time by half, or as much as 90%, without imposing any complex implementation.

To learn more about how Kanban can help simplify workflow and eliminate workplace bottlenecks, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started with Kanban”.

Better yet, reach out to start a conversation: Schedule your free consult
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