This one may be tricky to explain, but here's the use case. Our organization aims to reduce the amount of "time-stealing" by other staff. We want to eventually see this visual indicator show less intersects, with each resource keeping as much of their available working time free from interactions with other people as possible. For example:

  • Person A's total available working time as a circle.
  • Person B who requires some of that person's time per month, so both circles intersect the amount of time they interact.
  • Person C then requires a big slice of Person A and B's time.
  • Person D requires only a little of Person A and B's time.

How could I simply and visually represent such interconnected resource usage? I really can't think of how to visualize this, so am open to any ideas, even 3D if required.


Thank you for the feedback so far.

I could agree to not calling it "waste", but perhaps "shared time". Let's assume my organization is full of really capable people, who if left alone, are super-producers (ignoring reality for a while).

I played with this visualisation, which is getting closer to what I'm hoping for:

enter image description here

As shown, each person has their own colour (the outer line colour. The amount of time shared with another person is always of equal amount on each person's bar, represented by a fill of the shared person's colour.

Everyone has a finite amount of time, so over-sharing can be quickly spotted by those who's boxes are filled up more and the most time demanding people can be seen by their color being in most people's boxes.

This could just as easily be pie-charts, I guess. For our company's purposes, we can limit the total amount of pie or bar charts to around 15, which would still give an at-a-glance feel for the information.


1 Answer 1


Your Question, Rephrased

Your question, as phrased, seems non-trivial. You seem to be asking how to represent process dependencies within a single infographic. There are various charts and graphs one might use to show dependencies, but if you dig a bit deeper, that's not the real underlying information that you're trying to represent here.

The information that you seem to need is one of either:

  • Consumption of available time by "waste" attributable to other people.
  • Some kind of organizational capacity chart that breaks out waste and available capacity.

Possible Representations

The number of possible graphical representations of any given data set are largely limited by your imagination. What is "best" is not answerable. However, I can certainly share some insight into what data you might need to track to represent your informational objective.

If you're looking to break out consumption, pie or donut charts are an obvious choice. Trying to pack it all into one pie chart will probably lead to information overload if you are charting more than a few people, but it's technically possible.

Consider an exploded pie chart based on the following metrics:

Resource | Available Man-Hours | Waste by A | Waste by B | Waste by C | Waste by D
Person A           40                8           18             2           5  
Person B           35                6            2             1           7
Person C           38                0            6             7           7
Person D           53                1            1             1           7

The idea is that the whole pie represents the total team capacity for a given interval, while each exploded slice represents the percentage of total team man-hours attributable to each person. Each exploded slice is then sub-divided into color-coded slices attributable to waste by some other person in the data set.

If you want to show total productive/wasted hours, rather than percentages of a whole, then a stacked bar chart might be a better option. Again, the choice of format is only bounded by your communications intent.

Why You May Not Want to Do This

Processes are performed by people. It is worth considering whether interruptions or "time-stealing" are truly wasteful interactions, or whether they represent undocumented processes and procedures within your organization. Mapping undocumented processes that operate pervasively throughout an organization is a non-trivial exercise, but there are certainly practices such as value-stream mapping that may make the task manageable.

Even if you decide that the interactions truly are wasteful, you need to consider the process overhead of tracking all that information with any accuracy or for any given granularity. At one organization, I once determined that the requirement for team members to accurately track time allocations in 15-minute intervals consumed almost 50% of team capacity. Is that worth it for your use case?

You might cut down on this overhead by replacing accurate and continuous journaling with guesstimates, or by assigning values based on simplistic calculations like Waste = Wall Time - Ideal Hours to Complete. However, the Garbage In, Garbage Out principle would certainly apply.

Generally, if you want to track waste, the metrics are more meaningful at the process or project levels rather than at the individual level. However, organizational circumstances may certainly vary.

  • 2
    +1 - should also add that "wasteful" interactions very often represent a) learning, b) coordination, c) command & control, d) team-building, e) other activities. Please be careful with attaching such labels as "waste" - this kind of potentially detrimental, morale-busting "buck passing" and pointing fingers is best confined to the manager's own desk. Do not show the results to anyone... Feb 7, 2013 at 21:01
  • 2
    @DeerHunter I agree with your list, although I rolled them all into "undocumented processes." I used waste in the Lean sense; I would certainly never assume a priori that such activities are inherently wasteful, and agree that such labels should be applied sparingly. However, the OP's organization has already labeled it as "time-stealing," and I think an on-topic answer must at least acknowledge the possibility that they have labeled it accurately for them. Thanks for expanding on the ways this time could be construed as constructively spent.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Feb 7, 2013 at 21:13

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