Myth 3 – In Kanban you do not plan

Sometimes when I talk about Kanban and favorable conditions to use this method I observe a lot of things. Some people listen and at the same time I feel their fear. Others start to search for worst case scenarios – why this approach won’t work. Some have heard something, the rest of them – not so much. As a human beings we fear different things. The most common one is leaving our comfort zone. We enjoy things we know, places where we feel comfortable. The same is about the way we operate – our processes. When comes to new we do not feel secure especially when we’ve heard something or even worst, seen it wasn’t working.

This is strongly connected with our next myth. When we talk about agile way of working there’s always something about planning. In this moment I often hear – “in Kanban there’s nothing about planning” – we’re doomed… But are we?

In Kanban you do plan. In fact, you plan a lot and on different levels. What’s worth mentioning here is that the planning mechanism is connected with feedback loops mechanism incorporated into the process. Everything relays on PDCA (Deming’s Cycle).

It’s a simple loop showing how you should design your processes to be able continuously improve. PDCA stands for “Plan, Do, Check, Act”, which are steps in the process that helps you to observe results. Last step, but super important, is connecting “Act” with the next “Planning” session – incorporating new learning into the new cycle. If you know Scrum – this cycle should be very familiar to you. Kanban relays on the same, very fundamental process. We do have something called cadences. Cadences are the network of meetings that helps to introduce PDCA cycle on different organisation levels. Yeah – and it’s not only practice for team – it’s for the whole organization! This concept was proposed by David Anderson in 2015 as a part of Enterprise Service Planning (ESP). Today I’ll tell you more about first two cadences conducted on team level: Daily and Replenishment Commitment Meeting.

OK! Let’s learn more about these two:

Daily Meeting, sometimes called Kanban Meeting. I guess you’ve heard this name at least once. Daily Scrum, Stand-up meeting – seems familiar?  Of course, there are differences between implementations of this feedback loop in different frameworks but the general rules are the same. This meeting should occur every day and it’s main goal is to help the team to plan the next day. The team based on various variables in the systems should, within this short meeting, create a plan of delivery for the next 24-hrs. Based on Scrum this meeting shouldn’t be longer than 15-minutes. According to Kanban is should be kept short. Short enough that everyone can collaborate effectively and stay concentrated. Based on my experience – keeping this meeting longer than 15-minutes won’t work.

In Kanban there are a few additional words about this meeting:

  1. It should be performed in front of the board. It doesn’t matter whether you use physical or electronic board. Choose something that works for you and stick to it. As you could learn in our previous blog post – board should emerge over time, as your team and your environment is changing.
  2. You should start reviewing the board from right to left. Sometimes this method is called “Walk-the-board”. This rule is connected with the fact that in Kanban there’s one ultimate sentence describing the whole method: “Stop Starting – Start Finishing”. So instead of having everything “In Progress” and pretending that you’re actively progressing with work, focus on finishing things. Partially done work is a waste – and that’s the thing that we need to minimize in our processes. This technique is very helpful to observe stable flow over time.
  3. Keep the Kanban Meeting short – we’ve already covered this.
  4. Treat issues that require more time after the meeting. Sometimes during this meeting you can uncover certain issues. It’s a good practice to take this aside and stay a bit longer after the meeting to discuss the issue. Of course, the second part should be required only to team members that can contribute to resolving mentioned challenges.
  5. Meeting should occur not only every day but also at the same time. This rule is connected with creating habit for the team and remove additional complexity from the system. The more team do naturally (not thinking about time, place, do we meet?) the more they can focus on what matters – finishing things!

I see this practice very common but at the same time very poorly organised. My advice here is to sit down with the team, talk about basic rules, need of such cadence and benefit for the team. The next step would be to design their own way to do it effectively. And it’s only a beginning – the next step is to continuously improve – implementing in real life the PDCA cycle!

Replanishement Commitment Meeting – this one also happens on team level and it’s connected with selecting from the backlog work items to commit next. The next step is to replenish the queue for the delivery. OK, fine, but how?

Let’s imagine the following situation. In the backlog you keep all your ideas. They are more or less prioritized and detailed enough. Next step in your process is Selected queue. With your team you’ve decided to limit this stage to only 6 items. Your team’s weekly throughput is around 6. You perform this meeting each Monday. It’s Monday and in your “Selected” column there’s one item left. So what happens next?

So who attends this meeting?

It depends on how mature you are. In less mature teams/organizations this meeting should be conducted internally. In more mature organizations – you should invite business stakeholders, like Product Owner or others who can decide on the next priorities.

How often?

In less mature organizations the cadence should be stable – one week works best in most cases. In mature organizations ad-hoc meeting can occur.

Agenda?

The main goal of this meeting is to choose the next priorities for the team to be delivered within upcoming week. So what happens in our case is that the team together with stakeholders should pick 5 items to be delivered. During this meeting you should talk about the overall goal of such items, main acceptance criteria, etc. You hold the agenda – whatever works for your team, should be there. For instance, you can discuss dependencies on other work items, technical risk or identify information needed to facilitate the implementation.

Result?

New items appears in “Selected” column. The number of items is aligned with chosen WIP Limit. Team understands why those items are our next priority  – from business perspective. According to Simon Sinek, and I do agree in 100%, WHY matters!

To sum up: these two meetings are the entry point in implementation of feedback loops in your organization. Remember that “Implement Feedback Loops” rule is one of the six fundamental Kanban rules!

I would like to add one more comment here. Probably, for some of you these two meetings resembles Daily Scrum and Sprint Planning meeting from Scrum framework. And, as I mentioned at the beginning, these two ways of working relay on the very similar fundamentals. And, what’s even more crucial to mention here, is that you shouldn’t care so much about the framework or method you’ve chosen. This should help! What really matters are people and how you incorporate learning in real life. Because, let’s face the truth, the bottom line here are people! Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Sounds familiar?

KateWait


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