The Unstoppable Conveyor Belt of Tickets
Imagine you are positioned at the end of a conveyor belt. The belt runs at a certain predetermined pace. Placed on the strap are tickets that make their way down to you, the worker. Ideally you remove tickets from the belt (close them) at roughly the same rate at which they are delivered.
The problem with knowledge work is that all items are not created equal. This isn’t a Ford factory where you know that riveting one part to another always takes thirty seconds. Some tickets you close in five minutes. Others take five months.
If you are unlucky and get too many of the five month variety in a short period of time, you will need to find a way to turn the belt off or risk getting swamped.
To do this, you must contact your manager or some other figure of authority and explain why you need assignments to stop for a while. Nobody likes to hear this. Some other overburdened engineer else is going to have to pick those tickets up. You could almost hear your manager thinking: Stop making my life more difficult, stupid little support monkey! Shut your dirty filthy lazy mouth and get back to work!
It required effort and some silver-tongued convincing to get someone to turn the thing off. Also, you needed to take care to limit the number of requests you made for this favor. Let’s say you ask for this to happen every two weeks or so. No big deal. But if you’re asking twice a week or more, flags get raised. Managers start to wonder why you always need off queue time. What, are you stupid? Not working efficiently enough? What, exactly, is wrong with you?
It’s like the off button for this nasty bit of machinery is a) placed in an awkward, hard-to-reach location, say on the tip of the wing of a ceiling fan mounted 40′ above you and is b) wired to an electrical current so when you finally punch it, you’re getting a full jolt of current through your system.
After a while, you learn to avoid doing it except in cases of extreme emergency.