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

October 9, 2015

Featureban has a new home

Filed under: Kanban,Training — Tags: , — Mike @ 10:20 am

There is now a definitive place to go for Featureban. Read all about it: Featureban’s new home (blog.agendashift.com)

March 2, 2015

Featureban updates, March ’15 edition

Filed under: Kanban,Training,Values — Tags: , , , , — Mike @ 3:58 pm

I’ve recently facilitated a number of Featureban sessions:

This coming Thursday evening I’ll be in Derby, the guest of Agile Derby. It’s not often that I get to do Kanban-related stuff so close to home, so I’m delighted!

I’ve made some updates to the deck:

  • Encouragement in slide 5 for players to discuss their moves in a “standup” meeting.
  • “One of” and “Both” in slide 5 and what is now slide 8 are shown in bold. These are easily missed if not emphasised by the facilitator.
  • An additional debrief slide after each of the first two rounds, mentioning over the course of the two rounds all six core practices and their corresponding values (five out of nine). Feedback on this change has been very positive.

In the second debrief, facilitators should draw a distinction between visual management and the operation of true kanban systems. I make a point not to mention “collaboration” until it is mentioned from the floor (which it will, without fail). The likely mention of “multitasking” is the invitation to discuss how we have succeeded in limiting work in progress across the whole flow, and why that’s important.

A French translation is now available and a German translation is in the works; ping me for an introduction if you need one. If you’d like to make a new translation or any other derivative work you don’t actually need my permission (Featureban is published under a sufficiently friendly license) but do drop me a line if you’d like the original PowerPoint slides rather than the PDFs (see the Resources link above).

August 29, 2014

Announcing Featureban

Filed under: Kanban,Training — Tags: , , , , — Mike @ 10:51 am

I have two speaking engagements in September, a Lean conference in Belfast organised by the regional development agency Invest Northern Ireland titled “Driving Competitiveness through Continuous Improvement” on the 9th, and a return to Lean Agile Scotland in Edinburgh on the 11th and 12th. At both events I have extended workshop sessions which allow me to give what will be the third and fourth outings to a new Kanban simulation game, Featureban (I launched it at this year’s Kanban Leadership Retreat and used it again with minor modifications at a recent Train-the-Trainer).

Featureban is a fun way for small groups to try out some basic visual management (visualisation + feedback loops), and then experience the dramatic effect of adding work-in-progress limits to create working kanban systems. It’s also possible to add in metrics (there are instructions included for that already) or to connect multiple systems together (sorry, you’re on your own there). It should be easy to add other elements too; I would recommend that you introduce those in later rounds of the game.

For the second round, a WIP limit of 3 works well for teams of 5-6. If there are 4 or more items in the third column you could increase the limit for larger teams, but I wouldn’t go higher than 4. Use your judgement, and of course the same applies to smaller teams (set the limit too low, and blockers will dominate).

When time is limited, turn the metrics round into an exercise of the imagination. Have some outputs pre-prepared.

blah

30 sheets of 300gsm A3, pens and stickies

In terms of materials, it requires a simple four-column board and a good supply of suitably-sized sticky notes. I’m taking with me to Belfast and Edinburgh some boards ready-printed on A3 card (but a hand-drawn flipchart works fine too) and some small (51mm x 38mm) sticky notes. For the first ever run, we huddled around a sheet of A4 paper in the retreat’s lounge, and the rules evolved as we played. Cozy!

In the Edinburgh session on STATIK especially, we will even use Featureban to illustrate the change process in action. It’s all part of my preparations for a new 1-day exec-level class that gives exposure to everything I have come to regard as “first class” elements of the Kanban Method (principles, practices, values, agendas, the Kanban lens, STATIK, etc) . If your organisation is based in or within easy reach of the UK and would like to host an early version of such a class, drop me a line. (No, I’m not ready to schedule public classes just yet, and when I do, it may be in partnership with other LKU members.)

Following the very positive feedback I received on releasing the Kanban Values Exercise under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, I’m doing the same with Featureban, with the PDFs downloadable here.

Ping me at mike@djaa.com if you’d like to get hold of the original PowerPoint files. The same license applies to these files too but it’s really nice when people let me know what they’re doing with them. For example, I know that Ruben Olsen (@RubenOlsen) is already working a Norwegian translation.

Thanks to Ruben and to Jose Casal (@jose_casal) for their feedback on previous iterations.

July 24, 2014

Declaring STATIK a success

Filed under: Books,Kanban,Training — Tags: , , — Mike @ 8:43 am

Back in March, I published STATIK, Kanban’s hidden gem, giving the acronym STATIK to the relatively unnoticed “Systems Thinking Approach To Introducing Kanban”. So began my campaign to make it (the approach, not just the name) a first-class citizen in the Kanban landscape.

The more we use it, the more we find that it resonates, and the more opportunity we have to articulate with our clients its usefulness not only to new implementations, but to existing ones that need a bit of a refresh. In recognition of that, I’ve just blogged on djaa.com site the article Reinvigorating an existing Kanban implementation with STATIK.

As for first-class citizenship, it has recently been incorporated into the LKU curriculum at every level from Foundation upwards. Its component parts were always there, but we didn’t mandate a description of the process as a whole.

Finally, a reminder that Kanban from the Inside comes out in September. Part III will contain the most in-depth description of STATIK available anywhere.

March 26, 2014

STATIK, Kanban’s hidden gem

As far as I can tell from my extensive research (two Google searches), I’m the first person to notice that the “Systems Thinking Approach To Introducing Kanban” could go by a nice acronym, STATIK.

Not heard of it? You’re probably not alone. It’s not widely regarded as a first-class component of the Kanban Method, but maybe (and I’m expressing just a personal opinion here), we could change that.

You may recognize the steps:

  1. Understand sources of dissatisfaction
  2. Analyze demand and capability
  3. Model the knowledge discovery process
  4. Discover classes of service
  5. Design kanban systems
  6. Roll out

Our training has included these elements for a long time and we now expect each of them to be taught in accredited training (except perhaps step 6, which is beyond the scope of Foundation level training). If STATIK has a short name already, it’s “Day 2”!

if that doesn’t explain its familiarity, perhaps you’re reminded of the equivalent steps in Lean:

  1. Identify value from the customer’s standpoint
  2. Map the value stream
  3. Create flow
  4. Establish pull
  5. Identify and eliminate waste

In both formulations there’s an implied “rinse & repeat”. They’re not exactly equivalent (STATIK is by design more specific to creative knowledge work) but the parallels are clear.

I’ve been doing a lot with STATIK in the past year and a bit. It’s the focus of Part III of my book; in my interactive workshop at LKNA14 we will explore the combination of STATIK, values, and serious games (I’ve been working with Luke Hohmann on key elements of this); and of course I’ve been teaching, coaching, and consulting. And it changes things!

So to the real point of this post: I’m learning to be a little skeptical when I hear of changes driven from the board – “improvements” to layout, policies or WIP limits designed to drive changes in behaviour. I’d much rather hear that discussion of customer dissatisfactions or team frustrations is provoking discussion on how system changes might achieve one or more of these three things:

  • make the impact of these issues more visible
  • bring suspected root causes closer to the surface
  • start in some testable way to address these issues

Changes to kanban systems then follow, as necessary.

I hope we’re agreed that change should be implemented with understanding, agreement, and respect (the three values I call leadership disciplines). STATIK is a highly actionable implementation of that guiding principle. I commend it!

January 25, 2014

Kanban Values Exercise released

Filed under: Kanban,Training,Values — Tags: , — Mike @ 1:05 pm

[Cross-posted from edu.leankanban.com]

I’ve added an exercise on Kanban’s values to the foundational and advanced practitioner training decks. This has become a fixture even at train-the-trainer events and I ran it twice(!) at the recent Kanban Leadership Retreat in Monterey.

From the perspective of a Kanban trainer there are some obvious things to like about it:

  • It’s a gentle reminder of the foundational principles and core practices of the Kanban Method
  • It generates lots of high quality discussion (no group has yet got as far as the visual representation part at the end)
  • It prompts thoughtful reflection

Less obviously, I am integrating it into my teaching of the systems thinking approach to introducing Kanban (see David’s LSSC12 talk if you don’t know what this is). Part of the power of values is that they can represent both benefits and practices; this means that we can use them to connect the rollout approach (the last step of the process) to the needs of the organization (captured in the first step).

By popular demand we are releasing it separately under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license. You can download the PDF from Slideshare, and I will provide the pptx on request (drop me an email).

Kanban values exercise from Mike Burrows

Tips to the facilitator:

  • This is best done on paper (don’t hand out the later slides that have the model answers)
  • Complete and check the principles before attempting the practices
  • Do the principles in reverse order (it’s just easier that way) and cross off the answers you have used
  • There are no trick questions (“We aren’t evil!”) – if there seems to be an obvious correspondence of words, it’s safe to go with it
  • Groups of 5-8 people if possible; multiple groups can report back afterwards
  • Allow 45 minutes. It’s possible to do it quicker than that but groups do seem to appreciate the time to think and discuss.

March 22, 2013

When transparency is not enough (or too much)

Filed under: Kanban,lean,Training,Values — Tags: , , , , , , — Mike @ 2:26 pm

Maria Alfredéen (one of my behind-the-scenes collaborators on the LKNA13 conference version of Introducing Kanban through its values) recently prompted me to consider the limits of transparency, something most of us in the Kanban community value very much. Could too much of the wrong kind of transparency get in the way of flow, either because we’re looking at the wrong things or because it keeps our attention too narrowly on the concerns of one part of the end-to-end process (and “suboptimising”, the cardinal sin of systems thinkers everywhere)? In other words, can transparency and flow sometimes be in tension with each other?

At the BCS-organised London Lean Kanban Day last Saturday, Clifford Shelley spoke of productivity metrics whose publication would cause more harm than good. I couldn’t help wondering whether they should have been collected in the first place (which I think is Clifford’s view too, though I didn’t verify this). On Twitter afterwards, I discussed with Pawel Brodzinski and Paul Klipp whether the appropriateness and effectiveness of transparency was a function of existing organisational culture, in particular of the amount of trust that pervades the organisation. We had surprisingly different perspectives on that, but I think we mostly agree that transparency does have its limits.

Customer focus to the rescue

Without making major changes to teaching materials, keeping the Kanban value system at the front of my mind when teaching does seem to make a difference. For one recent group, customer focus was the value that seemed to touch the most nerves, got conversations going (both lively and reflective), and influenced even their initial attempts at kanban system design. To me it seems significant that one of the values that doesn’t immediately jump out from Kanban’s principles and practices should have this kind of impact when made explicit.

For example:

  • When identifying work item types and their respective workflows, “Know what you’re delivering, to whom, and why” was the catchphrase (and it stuck – I had it played back to me the next day)
  • When exploring what self-organisation really means – and it’s not “working with people you like” as Dave Snowden joked on Saturday – we saw customer focus supplanting excessive role focus and task focus
  • Sensing near-completed work getting “pulled” towards the customer, this feeling strengthened by the deliberate way we reviewed board designs and later conducted stand-up meetings
  • Considering the positive impact on team and customer behaviour (I’ve seen both) made by introducing post-delivery validation. Did we deliver to the customer’s satisfaction? Is it meeting their needs as hoped? Are we happy that what we did is supportable and sustainable so that the customer and team will stay happy?

Revisiting those conversations on transparency and flow I now wonder: is customer focus the thing that will keep them in balance? I have reason to think so. Seeing work pulled towards a customer whose interests we care about surely puts local efficiency into proper perspective. So too does measuring things that matter to the customer (lead times, predictability, quality) rather than things that don’t (lines of code, hours spent in the office).

I now see customer focus not just as something nice or important, but as one value (of three) that help give processes and process improvement a good sense of direction. Part of an “outlook for improvement” as the current draft of my Chicago talk has it.

August 28, 2012

Upcoming: September means Lean Agile Scotland & more

Filed under: Kanban,lean,Training — Tags: , , , , — Mike @ 8:07 pm

Lean Agile Scotland takes place in 21st-22nd September in Edinburgh with a programme that looks fantastic – great job guys! I’ll be there, giving the shorter (or at least faster), 45-minute version of my talk “Kanban the Hard Way”.  Get by touch by September 6th if you’re thinking of attending – and you definitely should – you can get a 10% discount on the ticket price with my promo code.

I’m on the pre-conference programme too with the accredited 2-day class “Successful evolutionary change with Kanban” taking place 19th-20th September.  It’s probably the last class I’ll give before December (in London), Edinburgh’s a wonderful city, so why not check it out?

Those events aside, client work keeps me busy.  Can’t talk about it, but it’s good…

May 31, 2012

More than mere tinkering

Not that I have ever needed much excuse to tinker, but LSSC12 has prompted me to make some significant updates to the materials for DJAA‘s 2-day class Successful Evolutionary Change with Kanban. And I don’t suppose it will be long before other providers follow suit.

Key changes, trailed by David at the conference after some testing on kanbandev:

  • Kanban’s foundational principles are gaining a fourth member on the subject of leadership, to be encouraged at every level from individual contributor upwards. I believe it fits very well – just as with the original three principles (which I like to summarise as “understanding, agreement, respect”), without leadership can you really expect success?
  • We are gaining an additional practice too (a 6th, to be inserted at #5): “Develop feedback mechanisms at workflow, inter-workflow and organizational levels”. A leaf out of Influencer‘s book, a good bit of Systems Thinking, and another reminder that Kanban is a method for driving organisational change, not a software development process, project management framework or process tool. Feedback mechanisms are a key part of what I’m already doing in the portfolio space and there’s no doubt in my mind that there is a lot of mileage in this practice.
  • References to “scientific method” have been replaced with “safe-to-fail experiments”, tying the improvement practices we already teach to the organisational understanding of Dave Snowden and other folks in the complexity community. Experiments were an important topic at LSSC12 and this change seems very timely.
  • There’s another acknowledgement of great thinking from outside the Kanban community in our adoption into our material of Michael Kennedy’s language concerning the “knowledge discovery process“. I love that we have found better words for what some of us already knew deeply but could explain only clumsily.

None of these changes are fundamental – rather they help to crystallise out some thinking that runs right through what we teach in our classes and bring to our consulting clients. That makes them easier to take away and to apply in imaginative ways, and that’s exciting.

My next public classes are in London (June 18th-19th) and Edinburgh (September 19th-20th) and you can register through our UK partners TeamProsource. And you might do yourself and your organisation a favour by sending your managers along to our 1-day event (June 11th). Not that managers (or for that matter non-techies) should feel the least bit excluded from our regular classes – some of the best designs of kanban systems I’ve seen in our classes have come from managers from outside of IT; they get it!

May 3, 2012

Coming in June: Kanban comes to London!

After the big conference month of May comes a June that is packed with Kanban-related training opportunities in London. There’s something for nearly everyone: a one-day event you can send your manager to, an accredited 2-day class, and David Anderson is in town at the end of the month for his 3-day masterclass.

The first of these is on June 11th. Lean Thinking and Kanban for IT is aimed at managers and other senior leaders in IT. The speakers are Jack Strong of LeanKit in the UK (a long-standing user and proponent of visual management and Lean in industry), Patrick Steyeart and Johan Vanwelkenhuysen of TeamProsource in Belgium and the UK respectively (pushing boundaries on the application of Kanban and Lean for projects and programmes), and myself, of David J Anderson & Associates, Inc. We will show how visual management, Kanban, Lean and Systems Thinking can be applied to service delivery, to projects and programmes, and to the problems organisations so often face at portfolio level (a subject close to my heart).

I’ve mentioned Patrick a few times here and it’s fantastic that we have this first opportunity to work together.

June 18th-19th I’m teaching our accredited 2-day class Successful Evolutionary Change with Kanban, operated by our UK partners TeamProsource. Learn not just how kanban systems work at the nuts-and-bolts level, but also how the Kanban Method catalyses organisational change and improvement.  “Immensely valuable” was one recent piece of feedback on this class and I must say that I find it very satisfying to teach too.

You may recall my excitement early last year after attending David’s Kanban Leadership Workshop, the forerunner to his 3-day Advanced Kanban Masterclass, coming to London June 27th-29th. This is for you if you have a level of Kanban experience (or have at least attended a 2-day class) and wish to develop your knowledge and skills as a change agent, whether that is in a leadership role or as a coach. I really can’t recommend this class highly enough.

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