Service Project Throughput

Occasionally, I get a specific kind of itchy feeling. It’s the feeling that I’m capable of doing more than I currently am. It’s like you know that you’re capable of lifting more weight than you’re currently lifting, except instead of weights and strength training it’s your life and service in the world. 

When that feeling comes around, when I get itchy like that, I seek out new projects, collaborators, and circumstances that will push me to grow in new ways, that will stretch me to my limits and increase my capacity to serve in the world. And when I finally know that I’m acting at my fullest capacities—that is the best feeling in the world.

Underneath this feeling lies a concept that I think a lot about: what I call “service project throughput.” Throughput is an idea from the Theory of Constraints. It is the rate at which something can be produced by a process. For example, the number of cars manufactured per month by an automobile company, or books sold in a year by a bookstore.

I’m interested in improving the throughput or flow of my service projects. I always choose to work on projects that will be fun for me and beneficial for the world. 

From the perspective of the Theory of Constraints, I am constantly asking myself questions about the throughput of these service projects. Can I increase the fun I have while doing those projects? Can I increase the benefit that my projects have? Can I improve the rate at which I complete these service projects?

I want to be consistently increasing these variables—fun, impact, and overall throughput or rate of completion.

Coordinating effectively with other people has allowed me to increase my service project throughput, beyond what I would be capable of doing by myself. 

Initially, this was a process of doing one-off projects with individual collaborators, but as time has gone on, I’ve found it useful to formalize these working relationships into a clear organizational structure, with departments, roles and titles, standard operating procedures etc.

Carefully, thoughtfully constructing these collaborations and my overall approach to them has allowed me to increase not only the benefit of my projects, and the rate at which I complete them, but also the amount of fun I and my collaborators have together!

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