Agile Tips from a Barista

I have always known that typically coffee shops utilize a “pull system” so I watched in quiet observation as my coffee was made this morning at a local chain and it was indeed a Kanban style approach being used (or a gated system for controlling the WIP at least as I cannot be sure that the drive to eliminate muda through continuous improvement exists ).

But basically here was the “flow”:

  1. Counter person takes my order (“the what is needed”)
  2. Writes the order on the cup and places it into the queue of work
  3. Counter person takes my payment
  4. When there is available bandwidth, the barista pull my cup (ie; “the work itself”)
  5. Barista sets the environment based on the nature of my order (double shot of expresso, etc.) This is where the adaptability comes in in a decomposition of the things to be done to achieve the success of the order
  6. Barista focuses on the completion of the order (“the done”) by only pulling in the work that they can manage
  7. Barista calls my name and delivers the product

This is a very simple process that they repeat but if you focus on their intention of flow it becomes very apparent that there is a control the flow of the work and applied focus to deliver the completed product. This combination allows consistency and execution in a manner that allows the people doing the work to control the queue of work to be done.

I just found this interesting as a simple example of a workflow that is designed to produce a consistent product and a workflow that remains gated to ensure that the person making the coffee is focusing on the order and not the queue until completion.

I feel somewhat confident that this repetitive action has been observed and the overall average “flow time” from order to delivery has been calculated as it seems that within a small deviation, my coffee arrives at the same interval each time.

As much as I love a good cup of coffee, I enjoy being able to observe a system at work that is so simple but highly efficient to deliver a consistent product.