The Industrial Age play was Continue – continue the work as long as possible.
Picture an assembly line running uninterrupted. The Industrial Age playbook was designed to maximize the time teams spent in redwork. That’s why the management plays we default to follow the same pattern: first, obey the clock, then coerce people into doing what we need them to do, get them to comply, and continue the redwork for as long as possible. Any stoppage of the assembly line, any pause in redwork, meant idle time and wasted resources.
We have been programmed to continue. Continue the work, continue on to the next task, without a sense of completion. For example, in a service organization, a team member brings the boss a mockup for a new marketing pamphlet. After looking through it, the boss’s
words are: “Good, here are some edits.” Continue. After the edits, the flyer goes out and then the next flyer is up for review. Boss suggests edits, then that flyer goes out and the work continues on and on like this.
If things are getting done, why do we need a change?
Three reasons. First, failure to treat completion as a deliberate step in the process translates into a failure to see the work in discrete elements; this failure carries risks. One risk is escalation of commitment which makes the organization less likely to change course
when needed. Long continuation cycles, lacking opportunities for completion, carry the risk of spending time, energy, and resources on suboptimal activities.
Second, failure to complete also takes a toll on the humans in the organization. No completion moments mean no celebration moments.
One hour merges with the next, one day into the other. Without completion, we do not feel a sense of progress for what we’ve accomplished
or learned. There is no opportunity to tell the story and no opportunity to reinforce the behaviors that allowed us to be successful. Humans
will become dispirited and lose interest.
Finally, complete serves to proactively control the clock, exiting us from redwork and launching us into bluework. Controlling the clock gives
us the operational pause we need to reflect and improve upon our processes. The psychological detachment from our previous efforts that comes after a sense of completion and celebration, sets us up to successfully run the Improve play.
Completion marks the end of a period of redwork. Running the Complete play means thinking about work in terms of smaller chunks of production (redwork) and frequent intervals of reflection, collaboration, improvement, and hypothesis creation (bluework.)
The Complete play is the moment we exit redwork and head into bluework. The Complete play is closely linked to the Control the Clock play and in some cases serves to control the clock in a planned and preprogrammed way. Complete sets us up for Improve.