One impediment at a time
Why is it important to focus attention on one thing at a time, one impediment?
Well, there are many reasons. But let’s take a few.
First, get something completed. So often we try to do “everything” and nothing gets done.
Second, we need fast feedback. For example, sometimes our “improvement” is a stupid idea. Only by limiting the number of changes can we begin to see how stupid we are. Or how brilliant (and maybe share the idea with others).
Second (b), we need fast feedback, that things are improving. We want improvement now, not in six months. (A related reason is the impact on team motivation.)
Third, to see better. We have kind of already said this. But let’s expand a bit. In the Gemba (the team room) it is difficult to see specifically what is working and specifically what isn’t. And it is very difficult to see through the tangle of inter-connections to what the second impediment is.
Only by doing the top impediment and then seeing the results can we then decide what the next top impediment is. (Cf Theory of Constraints.) Often, after we make a change, the next top impediment is in an area totally unexpected.
Fourth, blindness and fear. One example: We naturally want to think that the top impediment is in an area where we are competent to fix the impediment. So, naturally, we see those impediments and we ignore the others. (We are blind, and at the same time, we fear getting into, for example, “people issues” where those dreaded “feelings” might get involved. Or, some of us may fear getting into SCM or TDD or whatever.) Picking and working on one impediment at a time makes us see or address the blindness and the fear.
So, we recommend not taking a waterfall approach to impediments, but instead take a Lean-Agile approach to impediments. Fix one impediment at a time (usually).
There are some excellent comments below. To Tim, I should have said, “Yes, sometimes you are right, but see Jeff’s comment below. To me, the two bigger problems are: (1) No real focus on impediment removal, and (2) working on too many impediments ‘at the same time’ (or trying to).