Battling the MWP

MWP. My colleague and her team have started using this acronym to help sort the projects that come to them. MWP stands for make work project. MWPs are the bane of busy people and groups and when analyzed will necessarily fall to the bottom of a pile. A caution though, one person’s MWP may be viewed as a necessary rush by someone else.

Whether you are working in a service department inside of an organization or you are taking in work from clients, some tasks are simply MWPs. From the library side of legal work, some theoretical MWP examples: extra research to confirm a trusted person’s work, legislative research that goes back too far in time, looking for every case rather than the best cases that clarify an issue, filing a looseleaf service that hasn’t been consulted in several years, pulling and copying print case reporters when you already have an electronic copy.

In process improvement terms part or all of an MWP would be considered a waste. During some recent interaction with Gimbal Canada I heard about viewing work projects with outputs in mind. Thinking about the total deliverable, is the work a:

  • Must have – something the client expects , not having it would upset them
  • Nice to have – something that makes the client happy, but not having it has no effect
  • Delighter – something that delights the client
  • Frustrater – something that, when included, detracts from the deliverable

To put a legal research example into these deliverable categories, think about a senior partner asking a librarian for a case.

  • Must have – Partner gets a copy of the case
  • Nice to have – Case comes with a history note up
  • Delighter – Case comes very quickly in the format that the partner needs along with a hyperlink to a copy that can be shared with a client, is saved to the file with a noteup report, and the information needs were anticipated rather than requiring instruction because the librarian knew what the partner was likely working on and how the case would be used
  • Frustrater 1 – Case is provided in a format that requires the partner to do or have some extra step done (scanning it, printing it, saving it to the file)
  • Frustrater 2 – Case comes along with every decision that has ever cited it in a big stack of printing that has been charged to the file
  • Frustrater 3 – Case comes too late, or partner has to follow up with several sets of further instructions

Frustraters can be under delivery (unlikely with a librarian on the task), over delivery, interruptions for further instructions, providing information in the wrong format for the purpose it is needed – frustraters are a waste of effort and time. An MWP coming in as a request is a frustrater as well.

How do you battle the MWP?

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