Kanban, and Lean in general, both promote doing things at the last responsible moment. That can be a little against the grain for those who consider it good policy to get things done well in advance “just in case.” The last responsible moment is another way of saying just in time or deferred committment.
The thought behind this is simple. Doing things before they need to be done is a type of waste and a main tenet of Lean is to reduce waste. If you are doing things that don’t yet need to be done then you are, presumably, NOT doing things that DO need to be done. Call it misguided prioritization and/or opportunity cost. You are costing yourself, your team, your company, the opportunity to produce something that is more beneficial to them in that moment than delivering something that is not yet needed.
The question we should be asking ourselves is why. Why do we perpetuate, and even espouse, this pattern of doing things much earlier than they need to be done? The answer, I’ve found, is lack of trust. Either you don’t trust yourself so you decide to work on it in advance or, very often, a customer will inflate urgency of a need because they believe you will deliver late. So, they’ll be clever and give you an earlier due date so you still deliver it by the date they really needed ‘Thing X’ in the first place. The latter especially breeds a cycle of mistrust that becomes very difficult to break over time.
Does this ring a bell? Do you often escalate things on your own, just in case you can’t deliver as expected? What did it cost you or your company? Do you get frustrated at the lack of trust customers have in your team (sometimes even when you don’t have that same trust yourself)?
In future installments, we’ll discuss how to identify the last responsible moment and how to get yourself and others to allow you to let the last responsible moment guide your delivery timelines…
Stay tuned and don’t forget to discuss this installment!