Re-read Saturday


Book cover: Tame your Work Flow
Tame your Work Flow

We began our re-read of Tame your Work Flow by Steve Tendon and Daniel Doiron, on Saturday, May 23rd. The world has changed a lot as we worked our way through the book. However, there are important ideas in this book that are far less transitory than the changes we’ve seen in 2020 will be. One of those ideas is finding the constraint in complex, messy workflows. They even add an acronym for this scenario to our alphabet soup vocabulary – PEST. In the messy real-world Steve and Daniel describe how to identify the constraint and then track it as it moves around. This is the difference between understanding flow in theory and doing something about it in practice. I used this approach twice just this week.  Another great and useful idea is the concept of full-kitting. I gauge the value of this kind of book by whether I can use the material and whether it makes me think. I have been able to use these concepts and more in my consulting practice since my first read of the book. The second time through, this re-read, has only deepened my understanding and appreciation of the ideas in TameFlow.

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Book cover: Tame your Work Flow
Tame your Work Flow

Today we tackle the whole of Part 7 which is Chapter 21 and the Epilogue.  Next week we will complete our re-read of Tame Your Work Flow with concluding remarks.  On November 28th we will kick off our re-read of Great Big Agile.

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Book cover: Tame your Work Flow
Tame your Work Flow

A few logistical comments before we dive into chapter 20.  After this week we have three weeks left in this re-read including our customary debrief. When we decided on Tame your Work Flow we decided on the next two books in the series due to the intense competition, so in four weeks, we will begin Jeff Dalton’s Great Big Agile.  We will only read the part of the book that addresses the Agile Performance Holarchy. This is not a slight to the rest of the book which includes a wide range of tools and techniques that are consumable (I keep a copy close at hand) and do not need further analysis. 

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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. 

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Book cover: Tame your Work Flow
Tame your Work Flow

This week we tackle Chapter 19 of Steve Tendon and Daniel Doiron’s  Tame your Work Flow.  Chapter 19 combines many of the moving parts from the previous chapters into a set of tools for monitoring the execution of work.  The authors pick up at the portfolio level developed in Chapter 18. Portfolio items, once committed and placed into flow, can contain many groups of work that Steve and Daniel term Minimal Outcome-Value Effort or MOVEs (see week 14). Once in flow (being worked on), a flow manager picks up managing the MOVEs. 

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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 – https://bit.ly/2LWJ3EY

Week 2: Prologue (The Story of Herbie) – https://bit.ly/3h4zmTi

Week 3: Explicit Mental Models – https://bit.ly/2UJUZyN 

Week 4: Flow Efficiency, Little’s Law and Economic Impact – https://bit.ly/2VrIhoL 

Week 5: Flawed Mental Models – https://bit.ly/3eqj70m  

Week 6: Where To Focus Improvement Efforts – https://bit.ly/2DTvOUN 

Week 7: Introduction to Throughput Accounting and Culture – https://bit.ly/2DbhfLT 

Week 8: Accounting F(r)iction and  Show Me the Money – https://bit.ly/2XmDuWu 

Week 9: Constraints in the Work Flow and in the Work Process – https://bit.ly/33Uukoz 

Week 10: Understanding PEST Environments and Finding the Constraint in PEST Environments – https://bit.ly/3ga3ew9 

Week 11: Drum-Buffer-Rope Scheduling – https://bit.ly/32l0Z3Q 

Week 12: Portfolio Prioritization and Selection in PEST Environments – https://bit.ly/31Ea4WC 

Week 13: Flow Efficiency, DBR, and TameFlow Kanban Boards – https://bit.ly/32rYUVf 

Week 14: Outcomes, Values, and Efforts in PEST Environments – https://bit.ly/3jd52qw

Week 15: Introduction to Execution Management Signalshttps://bit.ly/3mS9j4V

Book cover: Tame your Work Flow
Tame your Work Flow

This chapter spends time describing and using Critical-Chain Project Management (CCPM) as a tool generating signals that help organizations control the flow of work in real-time and with a forward bias. I was introduced to CCPM early in my career (along with a number of other scheduling and planning tools). While I have not used these techniques as wholes recently  I have found the ideas they are based on and pieces and parts useful every day. This is a long way of saying, don’t skip to the next chapter. Steve and Daniel state very early in the chapter that “in the Tameflow Approach we are not thinking about the execution of the plan, but more specifically about the execution of the work.” Focusing on the execution of the work requires an appropriate mechanism that can signal trouble coming that is information-based rather than gut-based. 

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Book cover: Tame your Work Flow

Tame your Work Flow

Chapter 15 of Tame your Work Flow, introduces the concept of a MOVE, which stands for Minimal Outcome-Value Effort. Steve and Daniel use the construct to help define an atomic level of value delivery that is both minimalistic and sufficient. MOVE, while not replacing the myriad Mxx acronyms (e.g. minimal viable product or minimal marketable product), provides a mental model for defining items in your portfolio backlog that is focused on throughput accounting. (more…)

Book cover: Tame your Work Flow

Tame your Work Flow

I find Chapter 14 useful in a book of useful chapters. In this chapter, Steve and Daniel explain the foreshadowed idea of full-kitting and introduce two different versions of kanban boards.

I am a big fan of the idea of the definition of ready. I have written several columns on the topic (for example, Ready to Develop from 2015, in which you will note that my definition is much closer to Steve and Daniel’s concept of full-kitting than some of the austere definitions of ready). It has never made sense to me to start working on a story if you didn’t think you could complete the work. It’s like making a platter of hamburgers for a party if you haven’t bought or even planned to buy the meat. The definition of full-kitting is “everything that is needed for the whole journey to done is known, available, or can be made available just-in-time when required.” This helps to ensure that there is no logistical reason not to complete a work item. I have found this concept to be useful and now is a “must consider“ when pulling any piece of work from my backlog. Full-kitting puts a lot of pressure on getting work prepared before it enters the workflow. This might feel esoteric or like it is a tweak on the idea of the definition of ready, but I have seen examples of teams (including whole Agile Release Trains) working for months on features only to have them warehoused because the overall application was not ready for them. Having your work warehoused is frustrating, not to mention expensive to do work that can’t go forward. (more…)

Book cover: Tame your Work Flow

Tame your Work Flow

Those that control work entry, control the health of a team, and at a product level, the health of the organization. Messrs. Tendon and Doiron discuss portfolio and work entry in Chapter 13 of  Tame your Work Flow. Putting my biases on the table I believe that Reinertsen (Product Development Flow) and Leffingwell et al. (Scaled Agile Framework Enterprise) have advanced the discussion of portfolio prioritization immensely with the concept of the Cost of Delay. That said, Steve and Daniel, advance the ball even further. The sad part of the conversation is that most organizations that I have insight into leverage brute force politics to prioritize portfolios and are subject to suboptimization within silos. (more…)

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