We've all been on a motorway when traffic slows to a crawl, despite there being no accident or obstruction.
Researchers have simulated this, showing it's caused by people switching lanes in busy traffic for a perceived advantage, forcing others behind them to brake suddenly. That then causes others to change lanes, others to brake, and the bottleneck grows.
Worse than that, research on the Monash Freeway in Australia found that each lane change a driver made in rush hour traffic increased their chances of a collision six times.
So changing lanes when things are busy slows us down, and makes us more likely to have accidents.
How to solve this? Well, governments originally tried what seems logical — adding more lanes to motorways to give everyone more space. But this actually made things worse, as anyone who's visited LA can testify.
The researchers found the best way is actually counter-intuitive — keep the existing number of lanes, but impose lower speed limits and prevent people changing lanes. This actually makes everyone's journey faster.
You'll have guessed by now that this is an analogy about the value of constraints.
It's something we in the agency world are generally terrible with. Particularly when it comes to working on cool ideas to improve our businesses.
We want to be able to do everything.
All at once.
We keep spinning up new internal projects and tasks from great ideas people have — adding lanes to our motorways. Then we keep hopping between lanes until something (or someone) crashes.
A key symptom of this is internal projects dragging on slowly, never quite getting finished or delivering the hoped-for value.
The solution is the same: introduce constraints.
Impose a 'work in progress' limit on internal projects. A maximum number of ideas the agency can work on at any one time. The number should be low. If in doubt it should be '1'.
In order to be able to start on new ideas, then, everybody has to jump in and help finish the existing ideas in progress.
Also, because there's a limit, it forces consideration of priorities. Will this idea really deliver enough value to the business to merit taking up one of the valuable slots?
These constraints will help you motor through making improvements to the way your agency works, and seeing that ideas actually turn into action more quickly is extremely motivating for everyone.
What constraints could you introduce in your agency this week?
Have a great week,