The Toyota Production System — Principle 3: Use “pull” system to avoid overproduction.

Principle 3: Use “pull” system to avoid overproduction.

In Scrum, the product owner is responsible for scheduling work deliverables according to business demands. The team works on these deliverables just-in-time, so there is no wasted work.

The pull system is maybe the most important mindset change you need to make if you want to apply the Toyota Production System or Scrum.

In Scrum the team does not “estimate” how much they can do during a Sprint. In Scrum they declare what they want to do within the ongoing Sprint. They decide this at the end of Sprint Planning Meeting # 1.

The pull system is a shock for most organizations. Most of us are driven by the idea that we do need to know upfront what we can deliver. The most urgent question in all Scrum talks, in all coachings and in all trainings is still: How can we plan and how can we be _sure_ to get what we want.

In some cases this leads to the fact, that Scrum teams shall commit to pre-defined Releaseplans upfront. In this case people do not have the chance to pull the items into the Sprint without pressure, because the release plan tells them what they have to do. Product Owners get confused when I tell them: “No – the development does not commit to an release plan. The development team only commits to the Backlog Items the want to do in a Sprint.

Understanding the idea of pulling the work into the Sprint instead of demanding an amount of work from the team is substantial for Product Owners and development teams.

[1] Scrum Delivers, Boris Gloger, Scrum Alliance Website
[2] The Toyota Way, Jeffrey K. Liker

3 responses to “The Toyota Production System — Principle 3: Use “pull” system to avoid overproduction.

  1. This makes perfect sense, but my question is this, management do not plan just-in-time, they future forecast to predict costs and plan and prioritize based on potential ROI. How do you predict costs (based on resources etc) when you work on a pull based system? Or do you take the approach of asking management what they’re WILLING to spend, and determine how much you can do based on that? I still find this question difficult to answer when asked by management, any help would be appreciated…

  2. Stefan Schubert

    As the sprints go by, the teams step-by-step do an estimation of the items still in the backlog. Typically you will have those items estimated twice or more (very roughly first, more detailed later) until they are pulled by the team. As you know the average velocity of the team you can do your forecasts based on those rough estimations. And even remove items from the backlog again if managers realize it’s too expensive.

    • Very good description. That is exactly what happens. ScrumMasters only need to make sure, that the team does the estimation meeting constantly and that they are performed. A lot of teams do not do it.

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