Human multitasking

Multitasking does not mean to do multiple things at the same time

If you are managing a team of creative people, one of the things you should learn is task allocation.

Multitasking is a thing most managers presume from its team-members and most of the team-members are able to do multitasking. But unfortunately, multitasking doesn’t mean one can do multiple things at the same time at all.

Suppose your task is to record a podcast for your website and to make a phone call to one of your customers. You will agree that you can’t do this two things at the same time. So if you assign multiple tasks to one and the same person he switches between the two tasks.

How multitasking is working within your CPU

Assume you are having two computation operations, each one requires 10 seconds. As a programmer I can decide how the computer should resolve this two tasks.

Sequential processing

Possibility one is to do it sequential.

This means that first one of the computations gets done and then the next one gets done.

Multitasking

A multitasking approach would be to divide the computations into smaller pieces and calculate them in “parallel”.

So, what would be the better approach to get the two tasks done? The sequential processing or the multitasking way?

The secret to answer this question is the switch time. It takes a small amount of time to switch between two tasks. For example, if you are writing two books in parallel you need time to think about the new one before you can continue writing it. This is the switch-time. It depends on the tasks how big it is but it’s always there.

So the answer is still clear: When you use the sequential method you will get a faster result of both operations. So basically this is the better way. This is why the Kanban manifest recommends to limit the work-in-progress (WIP).

But: Assume you are working on two projects for two individual customers. Both projects are taking few months to get done. If you are working on project A first and start project B when project A is done, you customer of project B will not be very amused. He would not even hear something from you until you finished project A.

Conclusion

Working multi-threaded or sequential – both methods are having their benefits. Which one to choose depends on what the tasks are to resolve…