What is it?
A way of gathering data on what work is interrupting people on a team and consuming their time and attention.
Why use it?
Cognitive capacity is finite. If a team is experiencing many unscheduled interruptions then their ability to do their scheduled work will be restricted.
When to use it?
When the team feels that they are unable to focus on the work they have committed to because of many unpredictable and unsheduled interruptions.
What could it look like?
A physical board in the team area with named swim lanes for each individual on the team. Two columns, “Interruption” and “Done” to show what the person has been interrupted for and whether or not they have done it.
Each team member keeps a pad of postits on their desk and writes one out and sticks it on the board as they get interrupted by unscheduled work. We’ve found the board can get quite full in a two week period, so the little micro-postits work best to save space.
After two weeks, probably in the teams Retrospective if they have one, the team then uses the items on the board to try and uncover root causes for interruptions, patterns or other insights. They then try and use this data to pick actions to address the situation.
For example if many interruptions are for user support they might decide to build a particular feature to enable users to help themselves with a certain type of recurring issue. Or, they might decide to have a weekly support rotation where one team member absorbs all the interruptions and allows the rest of the team to focus.
Use of this tool assumes that the team is attempting to manage their flow of work to be more effective and accurately forecast their capacity to complete work.
You could of course apply the tool to yourself, to uncover your own interruptions.