I saw this post at Learning about Lean via Frank's Focused Performance blog and it speaks well about the issues we all face as consumers of data and information. But more importantly it made me think about WIP for the first time since I was doing process and project management work at Boeing in 1996-1997. I thought a lot about it then when I was dealing with manufacturing but not so much since then as I have been doing 'info work.'
The thing it made me to tonight was to think about not just my inbox (as Joe Ely mentions directly) but also about the partly finished "things" I have laying around and the creative price of not having all of them done. It made me think about the partly finished specs for Project Server addin's that I had to put aside for other more pressing commitments and it made me think about the half incubated ideas for papers and blog posts that I scrawled down when I was on a plane or in a meeting and an idea hit me but I had no time for finishing it out.
I think the real price is that as I go back over some notebooks and OneNote sections that hold these seeds I am struck by how complete I remember the thought being when I made the note and how incomplete I think they are NOW. I have lost something between then and now. I'm pretty sure I can get it back but how long am I going to have to think about each of these ideas to get back to where I was 2 months ago?
So what I took from Joe's post (even though it was not what he wrote about exactly) was that I need to do a better job of documenting what I know will become long term on-hold WIP so that when I get the chance to get back to it I will not have to spend hours rethinking it to get back on track with it.
You all have these on-hold projects sitting around in notebooks and in Word documents. How many of them are in a state where you could pick them up right now and start working on them without a lot of re-publishing and rethinking? Think about it.