Positive Incline Mike Burrows (@asplake) moving on up, positively

August 29, 2015

Feedback loops — a striking juxtaposition

Filed under: Kanban — Tags: , , , , — Mike @ 2:35 pm

I’m blogging here a little less frequently at the moment, but only because I’m busy on blog.agendashift.com and our Agendashift LinkedIn group, where I have been previewing new Agendashift functionality as it becomes available to its beta testers. I could easily have made this post there too, but there’s enough Kanban and Agile content here for me to show positiveincline.com some love. And why not!

This week I have been using Agendashift’s shiny new charting functionality to explore the results Depth of Kanbanland 2015 survey (which is still open if you want to give it a try — please do). I was very struck by this juxtaposition:

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 12.12.14

At the bottom of the transparency category we have one of the survey’s strongest responses right next to a much weaker one (easily the weakest of the category, though there are weaker scores to come in other categories). For frequent, progress-centric reviews — stand-up meetings and the like — we’re scoring between 3 (“getting there”) and 4 (“nailing it”). But for regular reviews of end-to-end effectiveness, the typical score is a 2 (“early gains”), with a significant number of 1’s (“barely started, if at all”). Hmmm.

Yes, the daily stand-up meeting is an agile practice I would wholeheartedly recommend, particularly when it takes a form that emphasises flow over activity. But how many organisations are struggling needlessly in both their delivery and change efforts as a consequence of their neglect of higher level feedback loops?

Even if you haven’t yet embraced the Kanban Method, David’s Kanban Cadences picture serves as a very useful checklist. For each of the feedback opportunities shown, do you have a good story? In our experience, grassroots adoptions of agile methods do often deliver early benefits, but quickly reach a plateau because there is only so much that a mainly team-centric approach can achieve. The Service Delivery Review meeting in the middle of the picture is a great way to break that constraint, providing as it does a fantastic opportunity to bring together data on effectiveness and progress on change and to share it with a wider audience that may include more senior leaders, outside colleagues, and customer representatives.


I know that I’m not alone among practitioners of Kanban and Lean/Agile methods in giving high priority to those bigger-picture feedback loops, but if the survey numbers are to be believed, we must be in the minority. I’d love to help change that!


  1. still even with the kanban and scrum practices i believe many feel left out of the quarterly strategy review, and maybe even from the weekly commitment meeting. If you as a developer are not clearly committed in a meeting with a top level executive then you have a problem 🙂 so there is no replenishment or end to end strategy discussion with the people in the stand-up meeting. There is only tell us how you and your process can help our customer and our product better.

    Comment by feiko — September 29, 2015 @ 11:46 am

  2. In my experience (and certainly with larger teams), for every person that feels left out, there’s another person complaining of too many irrelevant meetings! The usefulness of the model is that you can easily check that the key control activities are happening. How they’re implemented is the next question, one whose answers are always going to be somewhat context-dependent. Typically, not everyone can (or should) attend everything, and neither should one meeting try to cover every dimension or time horizon.

    If – having looked at this properly with the team – people still have difficulty trusting in conversations that happen outside of their hearing, then yes, you have a problem :-).

    Comment by Mike — September 29, 2015 @ 3:08 pm

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