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

Today, we re-read chapter 12 titled Drum-Buffer-Rope (DBR). The concept of DBR is critical to using the Theory of Constraints in real-world environments. There are a couple of important premises that DBR scheduling is built upon that bear remarking on before we dive into the nuances of chapter 12 of Tame Your Work Flow. The first is that you need to know where your constraint is at all times. This means that someone needs to pay attention to the flow and pace of work. This infers a degree of discipline that can be problematic. As we have noted the constraint can move based on the kind of work in the pipeline and where we are in the cycle of finding, exploiting, and improving the constraint. While this might sound onerous, in order to maximize the flow of value through a value stream or value network it is imperative. The second is the discipline of the queue. DBR has an expectation that if there is more than one project or piece of work and product owner, jumping the turnstile is not acceptable behavior. In other words, work is done in the agreed-on order based on priority the organization agrees on upfront. The discipline of the queue is often a problem because of individual incentives.  (more…)

Book cover: Tame your Work Flow

Tame your Work Flow

This week we tackle two chapters in Steve Tendon and Daniel Doiron’s  Tame your Work Flow. Chapters ten and eleven put our understanding of workflow and process-flow into action in more complex environments. I have been dealing with pests all week; a swarm of yellow jackets made my garden their home. It is a complex and potentially painful situation, but not nearly as difficult as dealing with the common organizational failings. Chapter 9 introduced the concept of dealing with the chaos that can be found in most organizations using the acronym PEST, which stands for scenarios that have:  (more…)

Book cover: Tame your Work Flow

Tame your Work Flow

Self-knowledge is valuable to keep yourself reigned in, I really think Little’s Law is important. This week I needed to make sure I did not go overboard in discussing the ramifications of the theorem (I will include links at the end of this week’s re-read for those who want to go into depth). Chapter 3 of Tame your Work Flow is incredibly important for understanding the overall book. In your re-read spend the time needed understanding how the themes noted in the chapter title Flow Efficiency, Little’s Law and Economic Impact inter-relate. (more…)

Book cover: Tame your Work Flow

Tame your Work Flow

Re-read Saturday, Tame you Work Flow Week 3:  Chapter 2—Postpone Commitment and Limit Work in Process

Today we tackle Chapter 2 in our re-read of Tame your Work Flow by Steve Tendon and Daniel Doiron. The chapter is titled Postpone Commitment and Limit Work in Process. Last we mentioned multitasking, this week we make a full assault on the topic. (more…)

Book cover: Tame your Work Flow

Tame your Work Flow

Today we tackle Chapter 1 in our re-read of Tame your Work Flow by Steve Tendon and Daniel Doiron. Chapter 1 lays out the four flows which the book explores in detail and begins a deep dive into the power of mental models. The Chapter also touches on one of the great evils of modern times — multitasking (I say that with no attempt at hyperbole).   (more…)