I wrote another blog post on the SoundCloud Developers blog earlier this year: Managing Unplanned and Support Tasks.

The blog post explains how my team set up a process to deal with a large increase in unplanned and support work by becoming responsible for a larger domain with fewer people as a result of cost cutting.

The process changed how unplanned work gets reported and distributed in the team and how we track and visualize it. It went through multiple iterations and fine tuning and allowed us to surface root causes of unplanned work. By quantifying the time spent we got buy-in to do work that improved the situation substantially. Since introducing the process we reduced interruptions and ‘Work in Progress’ (WIP) which was crucial for sustainability and motivation.

We evolved the process described in the blog post and we for example reintroduced the ‘first responder’ / ‘point person’ role again for dealing with unplanned work.

If you are interested in this topic I can also suggest you read Making Work Visible by Dominica Degrandis. This book gives a great overview of the different ‘time thieves’ and includes practical tips on how to visualize and address the different types of work with the aim of optimizing work and flow.