One Important Planning Question: The Example of Planning in Kanban

One Important Planning Question: The Example of Planning in Kanban

Author: Anna Radzikowska, Accredited Kanban Trainer and Coach

December. Here we go again! The best scheduled, the most organized month each year, where end success is dependent on proper planning and preparation time. Sounds like bread and butter to you? Great, let’s talk about bread. Gingerbread. And cookies! To explore the planning in Kanban.

The Question

One of the questions I hear most often is: “So, when should this be delivered?”. Don’t ever ask this again!

Instead, ask yourself and others: “When should we start in order to deliver on time?”.

Don’t ask: “When should it be delivered?”
Ask: “When do we need to start in order to deliver on time?”

The change may sound trivial or insignificant even, but it helps you focus on what is important in planning and considers the non-homogenous nature of our work.

The Recipe

Let’s start with the planning recipe:

In Poland, we prepare (among others) two types of gingerbread: the big one looking like real bread, and cookies.

Now we will use our recipe to prepare for planning:

Planning questions

What this example tells us is that delivery date is important but is not the one and only component of good planning in Kanban. What is missing most often is information about lead time and how late (or not?) you are when comparing your lead time to the time span from “now” to the delivery date.

This chart helps in better understanding the start dates ranges:

Start date ranges

How can I use it for planning in Kanban?

  1. We can clearly see that there is almost no customer tolerance in terms of delivery date. This means that if I miss the date, the next delivery opportunity for me will be next year.
  2. If it’s late November and I haven’t started working on my gingerbread yet – it’s high time! It’s still a “normal” range, but I’m balancing dangerously on the “late” edge when I am required to increase the urgency of my work (to either Fixed date or even Expedite). This is the situation we don’t like as it requires very strict dependency management (for Fixed Date items) and leaves actually no space for mistakes.
  3. If I wait with my gingerbread any longer, it will make no sense to even start doing it (anyone who prepared full month-maturing gingerbread knows what I mean).
  4. On the other hand, the lead time for my gingerbread cookies is only 2 days. You can start eating them right after taking them out of the oven. The lead time distribution is very thin-tailed (it just takes two days to prepare them: one day for preparing the dough, and one day for baking and decorating). This means that at the end of November, I’m still in a “super early” start date range. But now the whole world of opportunities has opened for me. I can:
  • Prepare the dough and let it rest until I have time for baking and decorating.
  • Bake the cookies but decorate them later.
  • Do everything and put them in the box.
  • Wait until “just before normal” and do them in two days.
  • Bake cookies early and let customers (friends and family) eat them to realize there is nothing left for Christmas, but… there is still time to prepare a new batch 😊

Why is it important for planning in Kanban?

Knowing “when to start to deliver on time” supports not only good planning decisions but also helps you with:

  • Decreasing the number of “late” items delivered in a rush
  • Improving work quality – you have time to focus on it (e.g., how to beautifully decorate your cookies)
  • Escaping defects
  • Avoiding multitasking and quality issues resulting from multitasking (when I try to bake, decorate, and do dozens of other things at the same time, 50% of cookies will be burned)
  • Satisfying your customers with timely delivery (or delivering earlier if it’s not overserving!)
  • Avoid last-minute deployments, overtime, and late shifts (who wants to bake on Christmas Eve or the night before?)
  • Giving you confidence in decisions made and time to adjust to changing situations.

Explore more about scheduling, sequencing and planning in Kanban using Kanban+: look through or download the Triage Tables Poster, read book chapters about Understanding Lead Time, Triage, Cost of Delay or Dependency Management.   

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