Queueing Theory in Practice

I’m back from a course in Stockholm on the topic of lean software development. While it was definitely not a waste of my time, it’s lack of depth and long lectures disappointed and puzzled me. Longing to learn some new stuff, I spent some time tonight googling for articles about, or written by, systems thinker Russell Ackoff. Coincidentally, I found a good article that managed to touch both a lean concept (although the moniker “lean” had yet to be adopted when the article was written) and mention Ackoff. What I found was a funny piece on some of the practical applications of queueing theory from the September 25, 1988, edition of the New York Times.

“One way to take some of the sting out of waiting is to entertain customers. Since 1959, the Manhattan Savings Bank has offered live entertainment during the frenzied noontime hours. In 13 branches, a pianist performs and one branch has an organ player (Willard Denton, the former Chemical chairman who dreamed up the idea, liked organs, though present management thinks they are a trifle loud for a bank). Occasionally, to make line-waiting even more wonderful, Manhattan Savings has scheduled events such as a fancy-cat exhibit, a purebred dog show and a boat show.”

I also came across an elegant article about the differences between push and pull.

“Now reverse the logic. Suppose the customer pulls the product or service required through your system. Because you’re making what someone has actually ordered, you don’t have to guess or predict sales and production. You don’t have to add extra features or colours to tempt people to buy. If you’re not making things on spec, you don’t need the space, computers or people to store and track the inventory. “

Published by Tobias Fors

I'm a software management consultant. I help other people succeed with software development. In my work, I help teams and organizations be more effective and ship software.