Hiding in plain sight: the everyday concept that can turbocharge your Kanban

Aug 11, 2020 5 min read
Hiding in plain sight: the everyday concept that can turbocharge your Kanban

Understanding what stands behind Classes of Service, even in their simplest form, gives people the Archimedes’ “eureka!” moment and opens new options for further discussion about improvements.

“I really like the way you move these colorful sticky notes through the board but, you know… we have DEADLINES here!”

“I would like to start using Kanban, but I was told you can apply it only when you have no deadlines.”

“Yeah, yeah… have fun with your board, but we have work to do here. And we are already late.”

These are real words I have heard many times  from my colleagues or managers working in, what we may trivially call,  business. My colleagues – my customers´ words which ignite an initial  emotional reaction from me of: “No, it is not like this! Let me  explain!”, brought me to realize that this can only sprout additional resistance.

When I hear “but”, the first thought I have is  the quote of Benjen Stark (from “Song of Ice and Fire” saga) saying:  “My brother once told me that nothing someone says before the word ‘but’  really counts.” Also, in this case, what comes before “but” is always  one or another Kanban myth. What comes after are real problems people  encounter every day: overburdening, overtime working, annoying  interruptions and distractions, time theft. Always in a rush, always in hurry, always late. Endless firefighting instead of normal work.  Irritation over satisfaction.

This is the moment, when you can help people  to realize the importance and significance of a simple yet  underestimated concept: Classes of Service, which can support the decision making by answering one basic question: “What will happen (in a  true business sense) if you don’t finish the work item by the  deadline?” Understanding what stands behind Classes of Service, even in  their simplest form, gives people the Archimedes’ “eureka!” moment and  opens new options for further discussion about improvements.

You are already familiar with classes of  service: if you´ve ever bought a 1st class stamp, paid extra to use a  specialist delivery service like UPS, paid extra for 1st class on a  train, watched as the kids in ski-school get to jump the line for the chairlift, or again paid extra to jump the queues at Disneyworld, then  you understand classes of service and what they mean for you as a  consumer, and if you pause just a moment, what they mean in terms of  extra profits for the business offering them.  You will always consider  paying extra for better service, when it is important enough to you!  Your favorite band was playing a summer concert in a stadium nearby, did  you pay extra for the VIP tickets?

Before we go further, let’s introduce some details of Classes of Service and how they are used in Kanban.

“Run, Forrest, run!” or “Expedite”

If you run a café, expedite class of service  will be represented by a businessman who is late for the morning meeting  and needs his coffee to go immediately.

“Expedite” class of service means that you are  already late. Not just late. You are super late and the work you have  just learned about was supposed to be completed yesterday. It’s “all  hands on deck” request and it may happen that you are required to  postpone the work you (and sometimes even the others) proceed with and  focus on solving and delivering the expedite item. There are no excuses  as impact of delay is immediate and usually very harmful. Examples?  Defects with significant impact on production, quickly approaching  regulatory deadlines. Expedite means it jumps the queue, every queue,  and you will put other work on hold to make it happen immediately. And  yes, all missed fixed date requests will eventually land here.

“I don’t know what to say except it’s Christmas and we are all in misery” or “Fixed Date”

In our coffee business fixed date will be  group of customers, who booked their table for 11 AM and may be pretty  disappointed, if they realize their table is occupied and there is no  one who can help them.

When you talk to people from finance  departments, you will realize that the environment they operate in is  mostly fixed date (annual or monthly reporting, daily deadlines for  payments etc.). When you think about marketing, supply chain, stores,  online shops… Most of them is dependent on annual events cycle. “Fixed date” class of service is their bread and butter. Fixed date means that  you need to meet the deadline. When missed, impact of delay is  immediate. Christmas has its fixed date every year, Olympics every four  years. You need to plan accordingly, otherwise… welcome expedite!

“Just keep swimming!” or “Standard”

“Standard” class of service means regular work  items, which are sequenced based on FIFO (first in, first out) queuing  method or related to it “always pull the oldest available ticket” rule.  Urgency of these items is increasing and accelerating before levelling  off at some later point when most of the value is gone.

Standard class of service in our café is a  regular client, who stopped to drink a coffee, read newspaper and is not  in rush, but also expects to be serviced in reasonable timeframe. If we  keep them waiting too long, tomorrow they will read their paper in a  different café.

“After all, tomorrow is another day!” or “Intangible”

Did you hear about very special and unique  coffee type, which is available for special order but one of your loyal  customers would really love to try it?

“Intangible” is the tricky one, the black  sheep in the Classes of Service family. Nice to have. Not particularly  urgent. Finishing this work would probably help. Everyone knows that  intangible items should be done one day. But there is ALWAYS something  more urgent: fixed date, expedites, even standard tickets. Intangible  may remain forgotten for a long time, and some of them have tendency to  turn into fixed date or even expedite items. Technical debt? Checked.  Nice-to-have improvements? Checked. Financial application upgrade  required in two years? Checked. If you see any of them, just be careful  and include them in your plans.

Intangible (cost of delay) class of service  items, are generally the type of background projects that you like to do  when you have some small respite from the chaos, of expedite and fixed  date work. When rush hour is over, and you can take a breath, perhaps we  spend time in our café redecorating for the new season: changing out  the flowers, and the Objet d’Art.

Classes of service may become your best  friend, when it comes to making planning decisions and organizing your  priorities. Applying classes of service brings more flexibility to you  and your customers while optimizing the economic outcome and managing  the risk. If you want to learn how to use classes of service most  effectively, check out our Triage Tables poster.  Use it at your Kanban replenishment meeting. It´s available to download  or if you prefer to a calculator in the palm of your hand, try our Mauvisoft Menta Triage Decision Support application.  Maximize your business value, and your economic outcomes: make decisions with confidence. By understand the true urgency of the work  you do, bring back some sanity to your workplace.

If you like this lesson and would like to know  more about Classes of Service, then we teach this as part of the Kanban  Management Professional training path. Check our listing for  forthcoming classes.

*mid-titles come from: “Forrest Gump”, “Christmas Vacation”, “Finding Nemo” and “Gone with the wind”

Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Kanban Maturity Model Blog.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
You've successfully subscribed to Kanban Maturity Model Blog.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Success! Your billing info has been updated.
Your billing was not updated.