The Pull in Lean Sales and Marketing via the Last Responsible Moment

The conversations below emphasize in a world with a high degree of uncertainty, that we must wait for the “Last Responsible Moment” before committing.

David Anderson author of Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business says in an upcoming Business901 Podcast:

The whole Kanban thing really came about from the challenge of people resisting change. I was looking for ways of pinpointing root causes of problems. I found that introducing a pull system where we’re limiting the work in progress, was a way of addressing quite commonly occurring problems. Problems with committing on something too early, making commitments where there was a great deal of uncertainty.

So under conditions of uncertainty, people were committing too early, and a Kanban system was a way of deferring commitment until much later, Lean people might say, “the last responsible moment.” And also controlling a lot of the variability in the flow of work through the limiting of work in progress, the understanding of different types of work and different classes of service and setting capacity allocations for those, controlling interruptions and disruption.

A Personal Kanban tip that Jim Benson gave in a Business901 Podcast:

We basically create different projects, and those projects, aren’t atomized until the last possible minute. So we keep things in an aggregated form as long as we possibly can, which is a fancy way of saying that we procrastinate. But this is a good type of procrastination.

Least Responsible MomentThe other day I wrote and basically said; “You can put things off until the last responsible minute,“ which means that you’re waiting until you have to get it done, which seems like procrastination, but what it actually is, is you’re not doing something too soon.

So, lots of times we will start a task before we need to, and then as we’re doing the task, more information or more knowledge will come to us and we will figure out “Oh! I should have done it a different way!” Then we end up having waste in the work that we’ve just done, because we started the work too soon.

On the other hand, there’s the other type of procrastination, which is the “I’m going to ignore it, until it becomes a problem.” That’s not good. Nobody wants to do that.

Alan Mossman discussed his latest updates with me and in this PDF Last Planner® – 5 + 1 crucial & collaborative conversations for predictable design & construction delivery  and in a Business901 podcast, he said about the Last Planner®

It manages uncertainty. It deals with reality, rather than with somebody’s fantasy about how things will work out at some point in the future, which we’re now in. It’s moving from working on the basis of what should happen, to working on the basis of what can happen.

One of the things that happens with the Last Planner system, is that the people who are responsible for doing the work on a day to day basis, are involved in making sure that what the plan says should happen, can happen. They’re involved in removing constraints, systematically, week in; week out from the work that’s coming down the pipe towards them, and are then involved in proposing the work that they will do next week on the basis of the work that they know can be done. Ideally, that’s the work that should be done. But there’s no point in putting into production, something that can’t be done just because it should be done.

Uncertainty is the condition of doubt. Do you have a structure to handle uncertainty? Or is everyone just good at reacting to problems when they are created? Lean is a structured but a highly iterative process that handles uncertainty. It does this through the application of SDCA, PDCA, EDCA that allows the workforce to make strategic and tactical decisions.

From a Sales and Marketing perspective:

  1. When you think of a task to be done do you wait for the handoff to be requested?
  2. Do you schedule task to be done when and only when everything is ready?
  3. As a sales manager can you be confident that you understand the “trigger” points that you need to react to?
  4. As a VP of Sales and Marketing are you confident that you will make your numbers?
  5. Are you afraid to wait for Pull?
  6. Can you apply Lean to your Sales and Marketing without pull?

When we think about Lean, we think about empowering the workforce. The workforce that I think about is not on the factory floor. It is the workforce that is eye to eye with the customer, Salespeople. It is where pull begins.

Taiichi Ohno said, “ The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is a system that says there is no limit to people’s creativity. People don’t go to Toyota to “work” they go there to “think.”

Can you put things off until The Last Responsible Moment and


allow your Salespeople to think?