When asked about when their company works at its best, many people and companies we work with respond with “during a crisis.” This is not surprising since a crisis often brings people together with a common purpose and sense of urgency. However, the problem is that many companies struggle to deliver well outside of a crisis. When this happens, they can become addicted to generating artificial crises because those are the only moments when they can deliver in a reliable and predictable way.
Rather than becoming addicted to working in crisis mode, we need to consider what makes those moments successful and how to replicate them without generating a crisis. The key characteristic of a crisis that many companies miss is a sense of focus.
During a crisis, a lot of other work gets parked, and there are fewer interruptions and competing priorities. Everyone has a sense of urgency and clarity about what matters right now, which creates a sense of purpose. Achieving this focus enables companies to deliver in a more reliable, predictable, and faster way.
So, how can we achieve this sense of focus outside of a crisis? The answer lies in limiting work in progress and actively controlling the amount of work in the system. This is why Kanban and Flow methodologies talk so much about these concepts. By controlling how much work we have, we can achieve a sense of balance and have just enough work to deliver predictably and reliably.
It is important to examine your work environment and see if you have the right amount of work in your system. If you are not pulling too much work into it, you can achieve that sense of focus and predictable delivery without having to generate an artificial crisis. Not only will you deliver better, but you will also avoid the stress that comes with a crisis.
In conclusion, the benefits of focus extend far beyond a crisis. By achieving focus, companies can deliver more reliably, predictably, and faster. The next time you find yourself in a crisis, take note of the characteristics that make it successful, and strive to replicate them outside of a crisis.