4 Types of work

March 23, 2019

If you find yourself doing lots of work constantly but seemingly unable to get the things done that you planned to, categorizing work may help make it clear where the time is going. The Phoenix Project mentions a really useful way to categorize work into 4 ‘types’.

Business projects: These are user features, things that the business wants that typically bring in revenue.

Internal projects: Infrastructure operations projects, and internal improvements. Things that would fall in this category: CI improvements, local developer environment, db migration, automation of manual tasks.

Changes: Fixes, improvements, deployments, and meetings that comes out of the previous two types of work.

Unplanned work: Incidents, fixing problems, anything unplanned that takes time away from the other three.

The idea behind these types is our goal is to spend as much time as possible on business projects, but there are supporting types of work that allow us to focus on those business projects effectively. Internal projects and changes are those supporting types of work, investing some time in them will enable us to spend more time on business projects (e.g. investing in a CI pipeline will speed up development).

The last type of work, and the one that often provides the most insight is unplanned work. This is the category of work that takes time away from the tasks you had planned on doing, and we want to minimize this. When categorizing work for the first time, this is most likely where the biggest gains will come from - minimizing unplanned work.