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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.
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.
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.
Chris Hefley, CEO of LeanKit, recently delivered a presentation on why limit WIP (work in process) at The Path to Agility Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
Check out these slides to see what Chris covered during the discussion and to learn more about why limiting WIP is so important.
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.