Implement your own pull system using Kanban

A recent discussion with my retail customer prompted me to write this blog. While ploughing through my old pukka pad, I found these notes on ‘Kanban’ which I may have scribbled before a presentation or an interview.

The name ‘Kanban’ originates from Japanese, and translates roughly as “signboard” or “billboard”. The Kanban method as formulated by David J. Anderson’s an approach to incremental, evolutionary process and systems change for organizations.

Step 1 : Map your current process as it stands. Once the flow is visible, you can gradually make changes to your process to improve things. This will also help you to identify bottlenecks.

Step 2: Redesign your process to reduce end-2- end time. Kanban is a signalling system to trigger actions or an approach of receiving work/projects by ‘Pull’ from the demand. Identify work that can be done simultaneously without depending on any other process.

Step 3: Once your delivery process has been optimised then reduced TIP/WIP (Little’s law) to deliver work faster and reducing waste in the process.

 Total lead time = Number of things in process/Average completion time

(To deliver things faster, either reduce number of things in process or increase Avg completion time)

Assuming people work as fast as possible which leaves reducing WIP to improve lead-time. WIP/TIP (Work-in-process of Things-in-process) can be reduced by pull system. Work enters a process at the same rate at which it exits; since “exit rate” is controlled by customer demand, which means process is paced to meet customer’s needs.

Step 4: Creating an input buffer/bin; (request in buffer are not officially in the process).

The only trigger for releasing work into the process is having an item exit the process – and that what is pull system.

Step 5: Third element of pull system is a system for deciding which work should be released out of the buffer. Now each request should be rated on the scale of 1 to 3 on each of three criteria( Complexity, Competitive Advantage, Profit/Value – £$). Pushing excessive work into a process, clogs the process and dramatically increases lead times. 


Lead time to results(LT) = PIP(Project in progress)/Project completion rate(CR)

Solve for PIP = LT x CR

For a team of 20 developers with a completion rate of 0.25 project per developer

CR = completion rate per developer X no of developers

       = 0.25 project per month per dev X 20 developers (from historical data)

       = 5 projects per month

Plug in the numbers for 3 months lead time.

 PIP = 3 x 5 = 15 projects per months

A team 20 developers will deliver 15 projects, that means some project will have 2 developers assigned (or there will be some floaters who go wherever they are needed).

By increasing 1/4th of development resource (20+5); your organisation can save 1/5th of the original lead-time or one month. Recalculating CR (Completion rate) with 25 developers

CR = 0.25 X (20+5) = 6.25 ↑ 25 % increased

LT = 15/6.25 = 2.4 ↓ 20% decreased lead time

Step 6: If your organisation has more projects that developers then develop a trigger system to prioritize projects

Knowing number of developers and their completion rate; we should be able to put a cap on the number of projects and prevent excess projects from clogging the pipeline.

The discipline forces people to prioritize projects around business objectives and return on investment. Some detailed planning is needed to avoid competition for shared resources.

Advantage of pull system that organisation starts to reap the award much sooner.  If your IT department is struggling to meet customer’s demand and you are keen on implementing a ‘Pull System’ then call us and we may be able to help you.

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