Book cover: Tame your Work Flow
Tame your Work Flow

I am pretty sure that Steve and Daniel might disagree with me, but I find the concept of full-kitting one of the most important ideas in Tame your Work Flow.  Chapter 17 provides more explanation for the concept. My involvement in software development, enhancements, maintenance, package and hardware installation, and configuration has made it very clear to me that flow needs to be a paramount concern. Value only accrues by getting work into the hands of the people that will use it and then having it operate correctly (delivering stuff nobody wants or that does not work is not flow or done).  Joe Schofield in SPaMCAST 619 calls this DONE. If you accept that flow is critical to predictability and delivering value, then the idea of full-kitting makes a huge amount of sense.

Full-kitting’s goal is to ensure that once a piece of work starts to be worked on it is not interrupted until it is “completely finished and delivered.”  For example, I recently was discussing why a team had an “on hold” class of service on their Kanban board. The answer was, “our three stakeholders regularly have us change what we are working on and do something else.” Had this been the first time I heard a statement like this I would have been shocked; unfortunately I was not. Many times stakeholders don’t carefully consider their needs and then jump the queue when something predictable comes up. I once worked with a team that supports marketing communications when scientists the organization funds when they win Nobel Prizes. Even in the off years when none of scientists win there is a huge amount of business and systems preparation just in case.  Many times the requirements arrive at the last second as if the Nobel Prize timeline snuck up on someone. This is one of self-inflicted stop and go scenarios envisioned by the authors. Pre-empting this scenario and others is what full-kitting is all about. 

As with anything that smacks of overhead or pre-planning there is always a chorus of people suggesting that there is not time and coding needs to start now! If you harvest excess capacity in the process there is always time to make sure things go smoothly. Steve and Daniel argue throughout the book that changes or use of time that does not involve the constraint will not impact the impact throughput. In this chapter they identify four types of capacity. 

  1. Productive capacity is the capacity required to get the work done (this is total touch time).
  2. Protective capacity is the capacity needed to allow the system to absorb small bumps without affecting the system’s performance and keep the constraint busy.
  3. Excess capacity is the capacity that is not used either to produce or protect throughput.
  4. Idle capacity is the total of protective capacity and excess capacity.

Use the excess capacity to do the things needed to make sure a piece of work can be completed without stopping. This might include planning for the right people and resources to be available when needed or building an architectural runway slightly ahead of the team’s need. The authors warn against the cost accounting trap, the knee jerk reaction to cut idle or excess capacity, because it strips teams and programs of options which all but ensures excess wait times. Running at 100% capacity means that when anything out of the ordinary occurs it will be difficult to recover. Without full-kitting the natural bumps in the road become full scale speed bumps.

Full-kitting includes doing enough design work and cross-functional discovery work needed to minimize the risks of a complex engineering environment. Many agile practitioners instinctively realize that embracing both an emerging architecture and business environment does not mean we have to begin work blindly. Full-kitting provides a construct for being as prepared as possible so that we can minimize starting, stopping, and rework to maximize flow.  

Have you bought your copy of  Steve Tendon and Daniel Doiron’s  Tame your Work Flow?  Use the link 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 – 

Week 8: Accounting F(r)iction and  Show Me the Money – 

Week 9: Constraints in the Work Flow and in the Work Process – 

Week 10: Understanding PEST Environments and Finding the Constraint in PEST Environments – 

Week 11: Drum-Buffer-Rope Scheduling – 

Week 12: Portfolio Prioritization and Selection in PEST Environments – 

Week 13: Flow Efficiency, DBR, and TameFlow Kanban Boards – 

Week 14: Outcomes, Values, and Efforts in PEST Environments –

Week 15: Introduction to Execution Management Signals