Kill your piles

I am a notorious stockpiler. I like to be prepared. Use the last of the toothpaste? Don’t worry. There’s 2 more in the closet. That’s not the last of the napkins, that’s just the last of the pile I have out on the table for convenient use. I get anxious when there’s less than 4 rolls of toilet paper in the house.

I justify these actions by telling myself it will all get used eventually – after all, I’m not saving old newspapers “just in case,” or refusing to throw out broken items. I’m no hoarder. It’s just a backlog of things I will certainly eventually use.

Or, more accurately, things I would certainly eventually use if I weren’t also constantly restocking the stockpile.

There’s a certain sense of comfort in having that backlog. I had a team member who would never finish his work, never clear out his backlog of tasks. I’d get so frustrated, feeling he was constantly behind, while he felt a sense of security by always working just enough to get his backlog pile to roughly the same size by the end of every day.

Ultimately, a pile is waste – it adds no value. If I constantly have 2 tubes of toothpaste in the closet, one of those will never be used. If I have 20 tasks stuck in testing, then I’m wasting developer time on new tasks because nothing is going out to the client. There is no value in continued development because there is no end product for the client. Wherever you have a pile, wherever you have waiting, you have waste.

The only thing a client can value is something they receive. You’re not adding any value or “getting ahead” by continuing to throw tasks on the testing pile if nothing is leaving the testing pile. How many tasks do you have waiting for “just one last thing” before you ship it off to the client? Why are you starting new things before shipping old things? You’re just making an enormous pile of old things waiting for completion while you get distracted with the shiny new things.

Where are you piles? Go kill your piles.

Except for the toilet paper stockpile. You’ll totally need all of that someday.