At an Agile meetup I was chatting after the talk and someone told me that they had tried Kanban but it didn’t work for them. As a Kanban advocate I find it hard to believe that Kanban did not work. It works with any system you have and work well on its own. I decided to follow up and asked how did they visualize the work flow. They didn’t have a board, they had some software which was not displayed on a large monitor for all to see. I asked how did they limit Work in Progress. I was told they tried it but it didn’t really happen. I asked how they measured and reduced Time to Market. They didn’t… So, we can see they they didn’t do Kanban at all.
It reminds me of some ‘Scrum’ that I have seen where they put some stickies on the wall and have a 10 minute huddle as long as it does not interfere with their status meeting and the stickies on the wall are not complete or updated as they are using a software package to track things handled by the PM.
If you’re not actually doing it, meaning you’re not doing the basics, you are not doing Kanban and should not fool yourself nor claim it does not work. Same for Scrum. If your Sprint is not a fixed time from 1 to 3 weeks you are not doing scrum and putting stickies on the wall will not change that.
Are you really doing it? Try it before you knock it. You might be surprised how well it works.
Simple? Sure! Easy? NO!!!
The first problem you will encounter with Kanban is the lack of proscription. If you or your team are used to being micromanaged you will experience some disorientation. Don’t panic, this is akin to withdrawal symptoms or a cleansing reaction. How to handled it? Every time you are about to do something, consider if there is any real value in it. Is it something you are doing out of habit or ignorance or is it something the customer would be happy to pay for?
If you are a leader and your people are used to being ordered what to do, you will need a coach to help them transition to self management and you will need to give firm clear leadership and truly support them by creating an environment in which it is ok to make mistakes and the value of continuous learning is clearly supported. In the end you are trying to create a continuous improvement culture that minimizes the need for management intervention / optimizes the teams ability to tackle problems and get on with the business of making money by delighting the customer.
Keep in mind that all your problems will become painfully visible and there is no where to hide. You will need to prepare for this and focus not on blame but on practical solutions.
Kanban gives you visibility into your problems, it is up to you to solve them.
by Michael Badali
3 simple rules of Kanban
There seems to be infinite documentation on how to manage projects and programs and yet according to the Standish report only 32% of projects are successful. Thus the evolution of the Agile & Lean approach to software development, ITO, DevOps et al. People are looking for a better way to get things done. Extrapolating from intensive micromanagement through lighter and lighter project management approaches one arrives at the minimum viable process set. Sound scary? In a different way than you expect.
3 simple rules are all you need to get started. 3? just 3? Yes!
- Visualize the work flow
- Limit work in progress
- Measure and improve throughput
That’s it? Yes. that is all you need to get started.
Kanban, simple eh? Must be easy…well that is another story…
by Michael Badali