Book cover: Tame your Work Flow

Tame your Work Flow

This week we tackle Chapters 7 and 8 of Tame your Work Flow. These two chapters represent and story-based case study (as noted in the past, I am not fond of business novels) that takes the readers through the use of throughput management boards and how to identify the constraint by adding average flow time to each column. The authors again make the point that decision making without regard to the constraint yields erratic results. Most of the readers of this blog will have fallen into the trap (once) of making what appears to be the right process change only to find that the change is effective as advertised because we were not affecting the constraint. Remember Goldratt’s Five Focusing factors: 

  1. Identify the constraint,
  2. Exploit the system’s constraints, 
  3. Subordinate the systems to the constraint,
  4. Elevate the constraint (improve), and
  5. Repeat the cycle.

Step five I have always found is hard for organizations to accept. Most organizations and teams get tired of continuous improvement fairly quickly. The issue is, as we have noted before, that every time you find and elevate a constraint another pops up elsewhere. As leaders, managing the constraint is important to maximize the flow of value; however, visualization is imperative if you are going to generate the involvement needed for continuous improvement.

Daniel and Steve introduce the concept of productive, protective, and excess capacity in the example. While important, I will hold off discussing how I use this information until we are later in the re-read. Suffice to say, as any good Scrum Master knows, just knowing total capacity might be interesting but is not terribly useful in managing flow.

Chapter 8 adds the concept of financial throughput. Financial throughput focuses on isolating the variation in net operating expenses and net revenue. The difficult part of the conversation is reflecting on what is fixed and variable due to the clash of mental models, TameFlow versus Cost Accounting. One of the values, to me, of introducing the idea of financial throughput is the discussion of what is truly variable. Labor in most organizations is not variable (you will have to pay it regardless of the work people are assigned to); however, the growing use of zero-hour contracts in knowledge work may change that. A second, and perhaps more importantly, focusing the discussion only the truly variable components of expenses and revenue illustrates where real value can be gained.

Chapters 7 and 8 provide an illustration of how to use operational and financial throughput together. Combining the two allows practitioners to talk to teams and to executives in their own language. 

Remember to buy a copy of Tame your Work Flow to support the authors and blog!  

Week 1: Logistics and Front Matter

Week 2: Prologue (The Story of Herbie) –

Week 3: Explicit Mental Models 

Week 4: Flow Efficiency, Little’s Law and Economic Impact 

Week 5: Flawed Mental Models  

Week 6: Where To Focus Improvement Efforts 

Week 7: Introduction to Throughput Accounting and Culture