Business Flow: Watch the Baton, Not the Runner

Watch the baton and not the runner to focus on business flow.

Imagine you’re at the Olympic Games, watching the 4x400m relay race. While one runner carries the baton around the track, the other three runners stand around waiting.

If we ran the relay race like most of us run our businesses, it would look very different.

Each of the idle runners would be running three other races, ensuring that they always have something to do. But each of those races don’t start at exactly the same time, and each of the legs aren’t run with exactly the same speed. In this scenario, it’s the baton that’s waiting for the runners, who are busy (and probably exhausted) from running their other races. As a result, all four races get slower. Much, much slower.

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Lean Metrics: Measure Predictability with Facts over Estimates

Dart board with double bullseye

A predictable outcome is one of the most sought-after goals in any business or initiative. It’s easy to see why.

We often correlate predictability with attractive benefits like lower risk, higher business value, and maybe even less stress. So with every new project, we dutifully gather time, effort, and resource estimates from all involved — hoping that this time we’ll nail it.

Except we rarely do.

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How to Run Effective Standups and Retrospectives


Step three of The Kanban Roadmap: How to Get Started in 5 Steps

As a systems-thinking methodology, Kanban calls for team members to take collective responsibility for team priorities. Rich conversations about the work are a must-have. They help the team discover bottlenecks, resolve issues, focus on flow, and continuously improve their process. To facilitate these discussions, teams often adopt standups and retrospectives.

  • Standups receive their name because teams meet while standing, rather than sitting, when gathered around their Kanban board. Standing encourages brevity and staying on task.
  • Retrospectives are held on a regular basis, whether weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. They give the team a focused opportunity to evaluate the health of the system, make adjustments, and devise experiments.

When implemented effectively, standups and retrospectives are powerful tools for teams that seek transparency and open collaboration. Without targeted discussion, however, standups can morph into what’s-on-my-schedule recitations, and retrospectives can turn into personnel critiques. The next two activities will help keep your team focused on the work and the process, while laying the groundwork for a team culture of continuous improvement.

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What is Flow and Why it Matters

Improve Your Flow

Flow means to “move along in a steady, continuous stream.” In knowledge work, the ability to visualize and manage your flow is essential to achieving faster and more consistent delivery. It allows you to understand your capacity, easily identify problems and improve that flow.

In a system designed to manage the flow of tangible deliverables, such as a car assembly line, it’s relatively easy to see where bottlenecks are forming and slowing down progress. For knowledge work, flow problems aren’t quite as easy to see. This is a major reason we use Kanban boards to visualize our work.

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June 12 Service Interruption Update

As most of you are aware, on Wednesday, June 12, we experienced an unplanned outage between the hours of 10:56 a.m. CDT (GMT-6) and 1:32 p.m. CDT (GMT-6). It is always our goal to provide uninterrupted service, and we sincerely regret the incident. Our CTO, Stephen Franklin, and I want to assure you that the LeanKit team takes the service of our customers very seriously.

The root cause of the interruption on Wednesday was a major service outage affecting our hosting provider’s Chicago and Dallas data centers. Full details can be found here. (I expect that more information will be added as their research of the outage continues.)

Throughout the incident, we were in constant contact with our hosting provider. As a result, we were able to restore service for LeanKit customers about three hours before our hosting provider fully resolved their network outage. At no time was there any risk of customer data loss; only network connectivity was affected.

Regardless of the root cause of the service interruption, we believe it is our responsibility to ensure system availability. We are currently taking steps to ensure that this particular type of service interruption is not repeated. As we continue to develop our infrastructure and disaster recovery capabilities, we will keep you up to date here, on our blog.

Again, Stephen and I will take every step to ensure that this type of service interruption is not repeated. Please do not hesitate to contact Stephen ( or me ( at any time. We welcome your direct feedback and questions.

Chris Hefley
LeanKit, Inc.

Lean as an Organizational Learning System

Please join our partners at the Lean Software Institute for their next webinar, “Lean as an Organizational Learning System” on October 4

About the webinar:

We all admire companies like Toyota and Apple that really care about innovation and the relentless pursuit of perfection – and pull it off! That pursuit is of course never-ending, as customers expect more and as competitors continue to improve. As David Allen likes to say, “The better you get, the better you’d better get!”

But how?

None of these approaches are sufficient in themselves, however, because they don’t explain how an organization actually DOES to get better. What are the actual processes than need to be in place? What are the biggest practical challenges? How do we track progress?

In this webinar we will discuss how Lean Management can help software executives mobilize their employees and managers to learn faster than the competition and deliver more value faster to customers and shareholders.

Register here