On Commitment In Kanban

Most people would rather be wrong than uncertain. When the prospect of being right is questionable, human beings would rather commit to a position and be wrong, rather than hold a posture of uncertainty and avoid commitment altogether.

Our order of preference is: #1 – to be right, #2 – to be wrong, and #3 – to remain uncertain. Why #’s 1 and 2? Because we are addicted to the false sense of security that commitments give us.

Organizations that are part of a domain where uncertainty is high, such as knowledge work or professional services, pay a heavy price if they take a similar approach to commitments about what and when to work on customer requests.

Making too many commitments results in unpredictable delivery times. We have so much work in the system that we really have no idea when things are going to get done. There are too many potential outcomes (variability) stemming from unmanageable levels of work in progress (WIP). Unfortunately, even though customers are going to be disappointed, we feel good because many things have been committed to. That’s a false sense of security.

We are emotionally attached to the idea of just saying yes! However, many ideas that initially seemed like good ideas are often discarded once we receive more information. In fact, 50% is a commonly observed discard rate! We should strive to keep customer requests optional for as long as we reasonable can. We should also limit the amount of time we spend in the care and feeding (grooming) of optional work – especially if 50% of it is likely to be discarded.

Another downside of committing too early is that we are more likely to abort the work once we have already invested time and money in starting it. Why? If you say yes to everything, or say yes too early, you’re likely agreeing to a lot of bad ideas! We become so emotionally attached to our commitments that it can be hard to let go. Choose wisely!

It is ideal to keep work optional and un-prioritized for as long as you can. Options have value in uncertain domains.

Developing options before converting them (committing) is an important risk mitigation strategy. It does cost money to develop options, but think of it as buying insurance to protect you from much larger negative consequences down the road (like starting work you did not really want to do and having to abort it at great expense). The more uncertain the environment, the more insurance you are likely to want.

Okay! So committing to start work too early (or taking too much of it on) and not keeping our options open can be a costly strategy in uncertain domains. We should aim to defer commitment and keep customer requests optional for as along as we reasonable we can!

How do we do that?

The Kanban Method encourages deferred commitment and provides a set of principles and practices that are receptive to developing an approach to managing risk that enables work to remain optional. In doing so, service delivery of customer requests is more predictable and reliable. It also helps to increase the likelihood that we are working on the right things at the right time.

Constructs within the Kanban Method that help to leverage deferred commitment are:

  • Upstream Kanban – a way to marshal options before the commitment is made.
  • Clearly identifying commitment points.
  • Two-phase commitments: a commitment to start and a commitment to deliver.
  • Mechanisms to funnel options (pay our insurance) before we choose to convert them.
  • Shaping Demand – a way to balance demand with capability by allocating capacity to certain types work and risk.
  • Enabling a responsible approach to the discarding of options so that we can avoid aborting after commitment.
  • A practice of limiting the amount of work in the system so that we do not make commitments that exceed our capacity and make our delivery unpredictable.
  • Visualizing the flow of work and the policies around our work – so that when we do commit, we can meet our promise to deliver.
  • Visually seeing the interruptions to the flow of work in a WIP limited system encourage us to have discussions and evolve our policies.

If you are interested in learning more about each of these practices and how to apply them in your place of work, consider signing up for one of my premium management training workshops. I offer three LeanKanban University accredited management classes:

Team Kanban Practitioner

Kanban System Design

Kanban Management Professional

Follow me on Twitter @jamesdsteele

 


Affiliated Promotions:

Try our automated online Scrum coach: Scrum Insight - free scores and basic advice, upgrade to get in-depth insight for your team. It takes between 8 and 11 minutes for each team member to fill in the survey, and your results are available immediately. Try it in your next retrospective.

Please share!
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Berteig
Upcoming Courses
View Full Course Schedule
Real Agility Series Workshop: How Agility Helps Overcome Bias in the Workplace
Online
C$45.00
Jul 14
2020
Details
Leading SAFe® with SA Certification [Virtual Learning] for BMO
Online
C$1395.00
Jul 14
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) [Virtual Learning]
Online from Toronto
C$1595.00
Jul 21
2020
Details
Kanban System Design® (KMP I) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1795.00
Jul 21
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO) [Virtual Learning]
Online from Toronto
C$1795.00
Jul 23
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Professional - ScrumMaster® (CSP-SM)
Online
C$2199.00
Jul 24
2020
Details
Team Kanban Practitioner® (TKP)
Online
C$1195.00
Jul 25
2020
Details
ICAgile® Certified Professional (ICP) [Virtual Learning] - Weekend Class!
Online
C$1500.00
Jul 25
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1525.00
Jul 28
2020
Details
Kanban Systems Improvement® (KMP II) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1795.00
Jul 28
2020
Details
Real Agility Series Workshop: Cognitive Biases That Can Undermine Your Agile Transformation
Online
C$45.00
Jul 28
2020
Details
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster® (A-CSM) [1-Day Accelerated]
Online
C$1595.00
Jul 29
2020
Details
Team Kanban Practitioner® (TKP) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1195.00
Aug 10
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1595.00
Aug 11
2020
Details
Licensed Scrum Master Product Owner® (LSMPO) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1695.75
Aug 18
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1525.75
Aug 18
2020
Details
ICAgile® Certified Professional (ICP) [Virtual Learning] - Weekend Class!
Online
C$1500.00
Aug 22
2020
Details
**NEW** Kanban Maturity Model (KMM) {Virtual Learning]
Online
C$2120.75
Aug 24
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1296.25
Aug 25
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1355.75
Aug 25
2020
Details
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster® (A-CSM) [1-Day Accelerated]
Online
C$1355.75
Aug 27
2020
Details
**NEW** Kanban Coaching Practices (KCP) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1695.75
Aug 27
2020
Details
**NEW** Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner® (A-CSPO)
Online
C$1359.15
Aug 28
2020
Details
Coach Skills for the Agile Workplace® (ICP-ACC)
Toronto
C$2020.00
Sep 2
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1355.75
Sep 9
2020
Details
ICAgile® Certified Professional (ICP) [Virtual Learning] - Weekend Class!
Online
C$1500.00
Sep 19
2020
Details
Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1355.75
Sep 22
2020
Details
Team Kanban Practitioner® (TKP) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1015.75
Sep 24
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Professional - ScrumMaster® (CSP-SM)
Online
C$1869.15
Sep 26
2020
Details
Professional Scrum Master® (PSM I) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1296.25
Sep 29
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1525.75
Sep 29
2020
Details
Kanban System Design® (KMP I) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1525.75
Sep 30
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Professional - ScrumMaster® (CSP-SM)
Online
C$1869.15
Oct 3
2020
Details
Licensed Scrum Master Product Owner® (LSMPO) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1695.75
Oct 13
2020
Details
Coach Skills for the Agile Workplace® (ICP-ACC)
Toronto
C$2020.00
Nov 2
2020
Details
Certified Scrum Professional - ScrumMaster® (CSP-SM)
Online
C$1869.15
Nov 14
2020
Details
Kanban System Design® (KMPI) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1525.75
Nov 19
2020
Details
Kanban Systems Improvement® (KMPII) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1525.75
Nov 26
2020
Details
Licensed Scrum Master and Product Owner® (LSMPO) [Virtual Learning]
Online
C$1695.75
Dec 1
2020
Details