Kanban Method: Using Principles of Flow to Identify, Measure, and Reduce Delays

What is the Kanban Method?

It’s not about replacing your current software development process.

It’s not about changing or removing your team’s current titles and roles or adding new ones.

It’s not about a process that is only for support teams, maintenance teams, or “dev ops” teams.

Does any of the above surprise you?

In a nutshell, the Kanban Method is about learning how to optimize your current workflow process and how to identify opportunities for effectively improving it.

The Kanban Method is about learning the importance of these four principles:”

  • Start with your current context (start with what you do now)
  • Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change to improve performance
  • Initially preserve current titles, roles, responsibilities, and business cycles
  • Encourage acts of leadership at all levels in the organization

The Kanban Method is about learning the six core properties of a kanban system and how they are applied in practice:

  1. Visualize Your Workflow
    • Work types in your workflow
    • Started but not finished (work-in-progress)
    • Actively being worked on, by who
    • Items “delayed, waiting, idle”, why, who is working to get it moving
    • What is done, ready to deliver
  2. Limit Work in Progress (Create Pull and Surface Delays)
    • Learn to apply basic principles of flow & queueing systems
    • Identify capability (capacity) and develop meaningful service level agreement options
    • Provide needed exception (expedite) work items options
  3. Measure and Manage Flow”
    • Measure quantitatively time to complete work items
    • Measure quantitatively rate work items are completed
    • Visualize trends, expected variation, bottlenecks, and outliers (basic charts and metrics)
    • Develop strategies for addressing constraints and delays
  4. Make Policies Explicit That Govern Your Workflow Process
    • Project Planning (when) vs Production Planning (how)
    • Criteria for how work items progress through workflows
    • Criteria for selecting (pulling) work items to work on
  5. Develop and Implement Feedback Loops
    • Daily feedback loops at workflow levels
    • Delivery cycle feedback loops at inter-workflow levels
    • Monthly and Quarterly feedback loops at department/organizational levels
  6. Improve Collaboratively, Evolve Experimentally (Use Models & the Scientific Method)
    • Queuing Theory
    • Principles of Flow
    • Lean Product Development
    • Information Theory
    • Deming’s 14 Points
    • Theory of Constraints
    • Statistical Process Control? (What might you need to know)

The outline above represents a general scope of topics covered in a tutorial when introducing teams to the Kanban Method. This core is then typically customized (emphasizing or adding topics) after gathering more information specific to your context, as well as considering the type of engagement desired (ex. presenting the material as a one or two-day classroom presentation, or as several four-hour sessions over a week, or as smaller just-in-time increments throughout a multi-week embedded coaching engagement).

Tutorials based on real-world hands-on experience!
If you’re interested in a tutorial for your organization, or would like to “seed” a public offering in your metro area, please contact Frank Vega.
Learning Outcomes

A typical two-day tutorial is loaded with several interactive and “hands-on” exercises introducing how to apply the Kanban Method to software development, including these key learning outcomes:

  • Brief history of lean-agile principles and foundations of the kanban method.
  • Importance of starting with current processes and roles and applying an evolutionary continuous improvement approach.
  • How to identify work items types, model workflows, and bring visibility to your software development process.
  • Set and use work-in-process limits to create pull and begin optimizing your workflow.
  • Measure and manage flow to identify meaningful and predictable SLAs.
  • Recognize how your current implicit (unstated) policies impact your workflow today.
  • How making policies explicit helps to catalyze changes and directs enhancements to your workflow.
  • Exploring possible uses for multiple class of services in your workflow.
  • Strategies for managing bottlenecks and variation.
  • Using models to guide further evolution and improvements in your process.

Agenda

Day One

  • Introductions
  • Hands-on basic flow exercise
  • Kanban Method: brief history & foundation
  • Start with current process and roles
  • Make work visible
    • Identifying workflow and work item types & exercise
    • Modeling workflow & exercise
  • getKanban (simulation) game & debrief
  • Limit work in progress
    • Common starting points and considerations
    • Identifying initial WIP limits & exercise
  • Retrospective

Day Two

  • Day one review & burning questions
  • Measure and manage flow
    • CFD fundamentals
    • Little’s Law fundamentals
    • CFD analysis & exercise
  • Review & analyze getKanban game charts
    • Scatter plot fundamentals
    • Percentiles and lead time targets
    • Scatter plot analysis & exercise
  • Make policies explicit
    • Pull vs push scheduling
    • Managing pull systems
    • Data distributions and SLAs (on-time performance)
    • Cadences for replenishing queues, releases, retrospectives
  • Use models to evolve
    • Opportunity costs
    • Cost of delay and class of service
    • Queuing and flow principles
    • Queue and batch sizes
    • Variability
  • Parking lot items
    • Addressing other identified real-word issues
    • Final Q & A
  • Retrospective

Other Details

After completion of the tutorial, attendees receive a PDF of slides.

Note: Number of attendees is typically limited to provide and ensure a quality experience for all participants (usually 18 max).

Earn PMI Credits

This tutorial is offered in partnership with Dan Vacanti of Corporate Kanban, Inc., a PMI R.E.P., and qualifies PMI attendees for 14 Category A PDUs.

 
Kanban Coaching Professional

This tutorial is offered by Frank Vega of VISS, Inc., a Lean-Kanban University Kanban Coaching Professional Charter Member. For more information click here.