Unlike a “push” system, where work is given to a person and put onto a massive “to-do” list, pull systems allow the person doing the work to pull in tasks as they are ready. This prevents people from feeling overloaded and forces teams to prioritize.
This means that project managers and team members can focus on the right tasks at the right times while reducing wasted time or effort. Kanban control systems can significantly increase productivity and speed up task delivery.
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When projects take less time to complete, they cost less. The cost benefits of using Agile for project management are well-known and stem from the many characteristics that define Agile.
When teams work iteratively, waste is reduced. Because customers (or stakeholders) are involved in providing critical feedback that helps the team make course corrections along the way, the pull system helps to reprioritize work as the project evolves. This way, teams can laser focus their efforts on the work that really matters.
What is a pull system?
When working on a project team, a pull system can be used to help teams complete work more efficiently as a part of a workflow. Work methods that use pull systems allow people to manage the flow of resources by limiting work in progress and allowing those doing the work to focus.
Once a task is done, a team member can then “pull” in the next task from a backlog. Tasks in progress are completed in order of priority, while new tasks are pulled in to replace them.
There are several work methods that use a pull system, including Kanban and Agile.
How Can Pull Systems Help?
Pull systems allow “just-in-time” delivery of work. Unlike other work methods that allow team members to work on many different things at once, a pull system enables team members to focus on one thing (or just a few things) at one time.
The benefits of using a Kanban control system or pull system include the:
- Ability to manage change
- Ability to quickly adapt work to new information
- Increased ability to scale the team to the appropriate size for the project
As they work through a list of “to-do” items in a backlog, team members pull new tasks only as old tasks are completed.
This way, when something changes that impacts the business requirements (as it always does), the team can quickly adapt, knowing that the majority of work they have already completed can still be applied to the project. Finally, because teams using a pull system are self-managed to a certain degree, pull systems contribute to the scalability of a team, or the ability for a team to accommodate different sized projects while remaining cohesive.