Book cover: Tame your Work Flow
Tame your Work Flow

Cue the eerie sound effects from low budget science fiction movies that signal time travel. After publishing our re-read of Chapter 19 last week, Steve Tendon sent me a message, “where is chapter 18?” I nearly responded right after chapter 17 but a little voice told me to check. Low and behold, I had not addressed Full-Kitting as Ongoing Executive Activity, otherwise known as chapter 18. Today, we go back in time and review the first chapter in Part 6 of Tame your Work Flow by Daniel Doiron and Steve Tendon. 

In the earlier portions of the book we have learned to identify constraints in both straightforward and complicated scenarios. This skill is hugely important for any leader whether using TameFlow or other value delivery approaches. If this book has driven home any point, it’s that if you are not exploiting the constraint you are leaving money on the table. The one small problem is that in order to use this skill you need to see the forest for the trees. We are all overloaded by data and stimuli so finding tools and filters to tame the information that comes at us is critical. This is the crux of Part 6 of the book.  

18—Full-Kitting as Ongoing Executive Activity

Chapter 18 introduces the concept of failure demand which is the workload caused by not doing something correctly. Failure demand can be caused by dropped requirements, defects, execution errors and the like.  Work to address problems reduces the value an organization can deliver. Full-kitting is an approach for maximizing the flow of value.  

In Chapter 18 Steve and Daniel describe a kanban board to manage the portfolio flow.  The board includes the following columns (this board is also referenced in Chapter 19):  

The backlog column is a raw list of work before any other activity has occurred. At the portfolio level the backlog includes all of the initiatives the organization may address.

The prioritization column where work (MOVEs using the nomenclature in the book) is refined and broken down into recognizable components. The authors suggest that this is where resources, people and outside parties are coordinated so that when the work is pulled it can be started and completed. Another activity in this column is forecasting the duration for each MOVE. Priority is derived from engagement of the constraint and amount of business value. It is difficult to value a work item if you don’t know when you can deliver it and don’t have an idea of what it will cost.

The ranking column incorporates the priority and human factors.  The term human factors reflects all that stuff that you have to take into consideration to make organizations with people in them work smoothly. All of us have seen scenarios where work on a specific piece of work needs to be accelerated due to a need to keep a client or a specific part of the business happy. This is often considered rank office politics but within bounds is a requirement for keeping disparate parts of the organization working together. I once saw an organization try to implement a purely deterministic approach to portfolio prioritization. All horse trading and compromising was set aside based on a set of formulas. Several shadow software groups sprang up as senior leaders worked around the system. In the end several organizational leaders lost their jobs when the cost of maintaining application code bases skyrocketed. The twist Steve and Daniel point out is that if clear ranking can’t be achieved, executives (read people that can and will make a decision that will stick) need to be engaged immeadiately to make a decision. Waiting and hoping contention will be resolved is not an option. 

The Committed column represents the prioritized and ranked work that will be done. Once committed, work is done based on established rank, without further compromise and no jumping the queue is allowed. 

Work enters the flow column when the constraint in the workflow signals that work is needed to ensure it is continuously exploited. 

The portfolio board is the single source of work. The process needs to be transparent and collaborative and most importantly it needs to be respected. 

Catch up on previous entries:

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 – 

Week 16: Introduction to Full Kitting – 

Week 17: Execution Management in PEST Environments –