Monday, February 07, 2011

3 Weeks of Kanban

So we've had the kanban (note the small k!) board for nearly 3 weeks now. It's been quite a learning curve. Especially since a few of us know the theory and some are really new to it.

The first thing to know is that the daily stand up is a new idea, so quite a few people are alien to what the purpose of the meeting is. This makes it seem quite an arduous task to stand in front of the board for 30 minutes initially (times have come down in recent weeks).

This is primarily due to a lack of shared knowledge\understanding of the purpose of the daily stand-up. As I will now highlight!!!

Compared to a SCRUM meeting the Kanban daily meeting is significantly different. My understanding of SCRUM meetings are that they take the following format, each member of the team say’s:
  1. What they did yesterday.
  2. What they plan to do today.
  3. What issues you have.

Having read about these meetings, my general understanding is that they do not scale – i.e. they start to take longer than the 15 minutes allotted when you have more than 10 team members (note: everyone is involved!).

My understanding of the format of a Kanban meeting is as follows:

  1. Highlight anything that is “blocking” a work item – we call this an “Issue”.
  2. Pull the next work items in from “Done” columns.

I’ve read that mature adoptees of Kanban will actually perform a retrospective during the meeting. I.e. why is this issue preventing this item from moving? How do we prevent this from happening again?

So you can see that I have a specific understanding of daily stand-ups! How are we going to share this knowledge?


Well today I’ve been trying to write the ideas above in to an “explicit policy”. So now we have a “Purpose of Daily Stand-Up” – which ironically has the information highlighted above. This is a single power point slide – the key here is brevity (which I’m not very good at most of the time!).
We also needed a definition of an “Issue” so that people are aware of what we are trying to highlight during the meeting.


“Solving Issues” also has a definition and ideas of how to solve issues. The most important thing is that anybody can solve the issue. Another important thing is that the issue is taken away from the daily stand-up – otherwise it turns in to a conversation between only a few people; then no progress is made during the stand-up people not involved in the conversation get bored.
All of these lead in to a Retrospective – i.e. “How can we improve flow?”, “How can improve different areas of our process?” These are placed on another slide. So now we have four slides which hopefully outline “explicit policies” or definitions – hopefully these will help over the coming weeks.

Other things that we probably need to consider:

  • Size items – could we use T-Shirt sizes?
  • Mark on items when they move – i.e. transition to “Done”, transition to “In Progress”.
  • Mark on items each day they are in a certain area on the board.

So to summarise some important lessons:

  1. We are always learning.
  2. We have plenty of good ideas from all the team for the board.
  3. The board will change.
  4. We probably have too much Work In Progress.
  5. Meetings need a purpose or goal.
  6. Meetings need an agenda.

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