Beware of early commitment

Have you ever tried to order a coffee in the middle of the early morning rush? If so, you will no doubt have come across some interesting scenes of frustration when coffee orders go awry. You might have come across some great examples of teamwork and control to deal with tens of people in an orderly fashion. I see both extremes on a fairly regular basis.

Recently, I was in a smaller chain of coffee shops in Canary Wharf, London. There was a queue of about 30 people snaking out of the door. In an attempt to bring some control, the staff behind the counter were going down the line asking people what they would like. These were being converted into visible inventory in the form of paper cups with names on. It gave people a sense that progress was being made, and the barista had a good idea of what was coming next. Soon after the order, the checkout staff were coming and taking payment. More progress! By now, there were tens of orders stacking up behind the counter. Before I got to the front of the queue, the person I was meeting showed up and wanted to add to my coffee order. I was still probably 10 from the front. So, I asked to add a coffee. The problem was my order was already ‘committed’ and paid for. They struggled to find where my cup was in the queue. They already had about 20 orders ‘committed’ behind me. For a very simple and reasonable change, it caused quite a challenge.


Welcome changing requirements, even late in the process. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

Related content