Push versus Pull Processes

You might have seen the phrase ‘push-vs-pull processes’ used in texts about project management. In the context of IT projects ‘pull’ vs ‘push’ usually refers to who decides at which the pace the team is working.

The video below illustrates a push process:

In a push system the work is pushed onto the team and the work item authors are controlling the pace. In a pull system the work is pulled from a prioritized queue of work items by members of the team as they have capacity to do more work. In a pull process the workers are controlling the pace. In a push process the work authors are controlling the pace.

Typically a pull process works better for IT teams. Generally speaking, a good process is to have people author the work items, communicate with the workers about the new items, and then one of the workers formally accepts the work item by pulling it into their personal work queue. In most cases a pull process encourages better communication between the authors of the work items and the workers than a push process.

As illustrated by the video with a push process it’s very easy for capacity problems to go unnoticed by the work item authors and for the workers to start feeling like they have very little control over the process.