The Carton of Milk

A great story from a recent workshop ...

In describing the interaction between teams, a team director likened it to getting a call from his wife while checking out at the grocery store. She asked him to pick up an extra item, a carton of milk,  something that she left off of the shopping list.

If he is feeling particularly generous toward her in that moment, he will complete the checkout, take the bags to the car, then return to the store and buy the milk.

If he is not feeling particularly generous toward her in that moment, he will tell her that it is too late. 

This is exactly what teams do when they get a request from another team. In this team's case, it was about opening tickets for work. 

"Do you have an open ticket? No?? 

Situation A: Am I feeling generous toward you? No? Then open a ticket first and then we'll talk. 

Situation B: Am I feeling generous toward you? Yes? Then tell me what you need and let's work out how to get it accomplished. 

Clearly a ticketing system is needed to help capture the flow of work. But one of the main functions of ticketing is prioritization, and the best prioritization systems in knowledge work are not first in, first out. When you say "no ticket, no help," you are prioritizing based on time not importance.

This is a story where the real question is "am I invested in your (our) success?" If your teams can't answer yes to this question, we have work to do.

Go back into the store and buy the milk.

Karen Walker
— One Team Consulting