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Valentine’s Day Pull System

Nothing is quite as romantic as sitting with your husband or wife, sharing a dinner of fondue.  Nothing, that is, unless you’re sitting with me.  I’m not a big fondue guy.  This is sad because my wife loves it.  She enjoys the whole process.  To counter that, I like my food to be given to me, already prepared.  I enjoy the results!

So, leave it to me to point at the fondue pot half way through dinner and yell “Fondue is a pull system!  Fondue is a pull system!”

What is a pull system you ask?  Perhaps you’ve heard of Drum-Buffer-Rope or Kanban?

Businessdictionary.com defines it as a Manufacturing system in which production is based on actual demand, and where information flows from market to management in a direction opposite to that in traditional (push) systems.

The idea behind a pull system is to keep a smooth production flow.  For the sake of argument, let’s say N is a volume of work output.  It can be trouble-ticket call volume, software development, or hardware manufacturing.  Any of these work in the example.  If you and your team can consistently deliver quality N in a month, and keep a good work-life balance, you should know that a C-Level executive asking you to deliver N+10 is going to create bottlenecks in your process flow.  Your overall delivery velocity is going to slow and your team is going to work longer hours trying to deliver N+10.  This increase is unsustainable unless something changes.  You need to get back to N, either by cutting back the work, expanding the amount of people or things to complete the work, or find some efficiencies.

You limited your work in progress (WIP) for a reason!  If more is going into your process than is coming out, you’re going to accumulate a backlog.  For every unit exiting your process, you should have another unit ready to enter it.

For fondue, you limit your work in progress by the amount of long-stemmed forks you have to put into the pot (caquelon).  Before you start, you cut up all of your fruits, vegetables, meats…whatever you plan to dip.  That’s your product backlog.  You then begin dipping whatever you have, X at a time.  We had 3 forks each.  When the food is done, you take it off the fork, add another piece of food, and back into the pot it goes.  You can’t eat anything until it’s done with the process.

Am I a romantic buzz kill or what!?

Image: Recipe Tips

About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of Enterprise Engagements at LeadingAgile. I'm super focused on results. But I also take the hand waving out of organizational transformations. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

7 Responses to “Valentine’s Day Pull System”

  1. February 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Geez man. FOCUS!

  2. February 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Geez man. FOCUS!

    • Anonymous
      February 14, 2011 at 10:46 pm

      Hey! I can focus just fi….. is that a butterfly!?

  3. February 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Romantic buzz kill, yeah. But the kanbanista in me so gets this. Wait until you read about my latest take on kidzban where the amount of WIP is limited by a very tangible, physical object!

    • Anonymous
      February 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm

      I am very very intrigued!

    • Anonymous
      February 14, 2011 at 10:47 pm

      I am very very intrigued!

  4. February 14, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Romantic buzz kill, yeah. But the kanbanista in me so gets this. Wait until you read about my latest take on kidzban where the amount of WIP is limited by a very tangible, physical object!

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