The Blog

Capacity: It’s a Matter of Content…and Context

TonianneExpert, Featured, Neuroscience, Primers, PsychologyLeave a Comment

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.15.48 PMEnvision This:

You’re heading to a cabin in the mountains for a week-long getaway with your family. Your car is in the shop so you schedule a rental to be delivered.

In addition to six bags of groceries, a box of pots/pans/utensils, and a cooler full of water, your four children each pack a suitcase; your wife packs three, your mom and dad who are visiting pack two. They then proceed to set their luggage along the curb.

Your two daughters ask if they could each take their best friend, bringing your passenger count to ten, and luggage count to eleven.

The weather forecast for the next few days predicts lots of sun. So you tell the kids to grab their bikes, and stand them next to the luggage. You then head into the garage to pull out the bike rack.

Conditions on the lake are likewise supposed to be ideal and so you ready up your single axle trailer with your 28 foot sailboat.

You’re kneeling on the sidewalk next to the curb, tightening a bolt in the boat hitch when a clap of thunder followed by a flash of lightening pierces the unexpectedly darkening sky. Just then the rental car pulls up. Still eye-level to the wheels, and through the initial drops of a soon to be teeming rain, the first thing you notice is that the air pressure on the back two tires is low.

It isn’t until you stand up that you notice the second thing: the car they delivered…is a Miata.

To recap:

6 bags of groceries

1 box of cooking paraphernalia

1 cooler of water

10 people

11 suitcases

6 bikes

1 boat

1 2-seat Roadster

Without having visualized your capacity first, how could you possibly have known how much would fit in the car?

Keep in mind the overload here isn’t simply attributed to people, provisions, and luggage. A host of other factors would further diminish the car’s capacity including the wind resistance created by the bike rack, the added weight of the boat trailer, decreased visibility and traction during the four hour ascent up the mountain during a storm, and lower fuel efficiency due to the decreased tire pressure.

Capacity – it’s not only impacted by content, but by context.

It’s the same with information. Despite the persistent, insidious, and scientifically proven to be counterproductive practice of expecting knowledge workers to multitask, people – like automobiles – are not unconstrained resources. When it comes to processing cognitively complex tasks, our brain has finite processing capacity.

Especially when it comes to knowledge work, understanding capacity as well as the potential for variation is paramount. Much in the way the car above would be impacted by external conditions, the brain’s bandwidth is likewise impacted by its context. Physical illness, emotional stress, hunger, and fear of threats real or imagined likewise impact cognitive capacity, compromising performance and quality.

Visualizing your work and limiting your work in progress on a Personal Kanban allows you to not only to see, understand, and communicate your capacity to others, but it likewise prevents against taking on more work than you can handle. And when contextual factors are at play, such as mood, health, energy level, task difficulty etc., Personal Kanban helps you respond to that variation, allowing you to adjust your capacity by dropping your WIP limit accordingly.

For more on how Personal Kanban can help you visualize, understand, and improve your capacity while giving you the agility to respond to variation, register for our FREE webinar.

TonianneCapacity: It’s a Matter of Content…and Context

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *