Systems Thinking – Timeboxing 101

Lately we’ve been talking about the problem of engineering efficiency and the amplification of that problem through overburden; work coming into the engineering group without increasing capacity. To get engineering efficiency we think there are seven things that are necessary:

  1. Understanding what work is active in your organization
  2. Understanding what work is waiting to become active (backlog)
  3. The ability to reprioritize work on a regular basis
  4. The ability to estimate the effort required for any project

Those are the four ideas that most organizations are familiar with. There are three more that are tied to the time box concept.

  1. A standard for capacity utilization
    How much engineering efficiency and time do you hope to get out of each engineer in creating value for customers on a regular basis?
  2. Right-sized Communications
    How do your engineers communicate with each other. How is communication for forward looking work managed? And how is progress communicated from the technical side to the business side. Ideally this is done using visual communication. In he Time Box concept this is done easily at the end of each cadence period.
  3. Operating your team as a team
    We tend to operate our engineers as individual contributors and simply call them teammates. But, when we take their capacity and distribute it across multiple projects we really disenabling their affiliation with a team and operating with team behavior.

This problem, the problem of teams and breaking engineers into tiny chunks, will be covered in other posts. But for now we’d like you to understand that the concept of time boxing can be a huge driver in the increasing of your engineering efficiency.


Contact us to learn more about how Systems Thinking and the application of our Product Development Operating System can help your organization become more efficient, productive, innovative, and competitive.

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