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.

cadences

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!

July 29, 2015

Three talks and a brand new class

Filed under: Kanban,leadership,Values — Tags: , , , , , — Mike @ 4:11 pm

Earlier this month I spent a very productive week in Singapore. Our client (a significant player in Asia’s financial sector) added two extended lunchtime speaking opportunities to my agenda, each 2 hours long with time for food and networking. The first was on the Monday, a great opportunity to get introduced to people for the first time. The second was on my last day, a nice way to sign off and a chance to present to some more senior managers from both technology and business.

Adding a mid-week meetup (a evening event that included pizza, a talk, and a couple of rounds of Featureban), that’s a lot of speaking for one business trip!

If you’re thinking of bringing me into your business, this is a really good pattern to follow. There is double benefit: it maximises exposure internally, and it gives you a chance to do something good for your local Lean/Kanban/Agile community also.

At very short notice I am very happy to do any/all of:

  1. A Scrumban case study (this was my introduction)
  2. Agile leadership with Kanban (my Singapore signoff)
  3. Are we there yet? (my current keynote)

If there’s anything in my back catalogue that you think might be more relevant to your current situation, let me dust it down and bring it up to date.

Further to that last talk, I really should mention:

With thanks to my client and to Valtech for creating the opportunity!

June 26, 2015

Featureban – notes for facilitators

Filed under: Kanban,lean — Tags: , , — Mike @ 11:06 am

It’s about time I posted the notes I email to people who ask about facilitating Featureban, so here goes…

Here’s a link to the latest powerpoint: (withheld – I’m happy to share but do please email me for this)

You might find it helpful to take a look at the slideshare embedded in Are we there yet?. Take advantage of the Creative Commons licensing and make your own customisations or translations! The checklists shown in the deck are now available via Agendashift in the Values-based Delivery assessment template, the basis for the Depth of Kanbanland 2015 survey.

Time priorities depend very much on needs, goals and audience. Typically I do either:

  1. Rounds 1 and 2 and a “here’s one I prepared earlier” on round 3, plus lots of time for Q&A on all things Kanban and Agile (the sessions I’m running at my current client are positioned as Agile training)
  2. All three rounds with a few minutes debrief for each

In the last meetup I did, I achieved #1 above in about 75 minutes. Your mileage may vary. The job of the debrief is to let people make the connection with the workplace.

There is now an fourth round which I use only when I have a couple of hours available (eg in a workshop). One option is to discuss this round without actually trying it.

I make a point of comparing the rules of round 1 and round 2; everyone should agree before playing round 2 that the only change is the WIP limit. I’m careful not to use the word “collaboration” myself until participants make the key observation that this improves significantly in round 2.

Stop round 1 as soon as most teams have delivered a couple of items. Most teams will have lots of WIP in the 2nd column. DO NOT reset boards between rounds 1 & 2. Advise teams to hold replenishment events when their backlogs become depleted. In later rounds, they might reuse “done” tickets to save time.

A WIP limit of 3 in round 2 works well. The fact that the limit is imposed by the facilitator rather than proposed by the team can be discussed later when you get to “improve experimentally, evolve collaboratively” (CP6) in the debrief.

One other tip I heard first from a couple of other facilitators and have now tested myself: the atmosphere and interaction around the game is improved if the board is mounted vertically (eg using a flipchart or taped to a wall). It means there’s less time staring down at a table!

May 16, 2015

Coming soon: Agendashift

[Update: Now cross-posted to Agendashift’s new blog. View on blog.agendashift.com]

Imagine a change process based on choice and collaboration:

  • You (an individual or team) take an assessment of your choosing, invite a coach to facilitate one with you, or opt to participate in a survey
  • You explore online an analysis of your own inputs and the aggregated inputs of your colleagues, identifying strengths, weaknesses, leading and lagging areas
  • You identify the prompts or categories that best describe your collective agenda for change
  • You track actions through to completion until it’s clear that they have taken hold and are delivering the benefits expected

No emailing of spreadsheet-based questionnaires. No being left wondering what’s happening to your inputs. No imposition of priorities from on high. No failure of ownership and follow-through. These are my “itches to scratch”. Whether you’re a consultant, a client, or managing without external support, Agendashift can help you too.

Right there are Agendashift’s four A’s: Assessment, Analysis, Agenda and Action. Of course it doesn’t have to be as linear as that: given time, Action should dominate, kept on track with periodic recalibrations from the other three.

You’ll see a free version launched in the next few weeks that anyone can try without obligation. A little after that, paid accounts will bring the ability to design new assessment templates and to manage client/team workspaces.

Agendashift will launch with a “Values-based delivery” template adapted for public consumption from my book with the help of some much-appreciated collaboration. If you have ideas for other templates (your own practice’s tools perhaps, or more specifically Agile or Lean than mine), do get in touch.

Meanwhile, leave a comment, follow @agendashift on Twitter or sign up at agendashift.com to be sure of receiving launch news.

May 8, 2015

Kanban from the Inside: 13. Agile

Filed under: Books,Kanban — Tags: , , , — Mike @ 10:21 am

In this series of short excerpts from my book Kanban from the Inside we’ve reached chapter 13, on Agile. Following the pattern of the preceding two excerpts, we’re skipping the main content of the chapter and reproducing some of my main conclusions.


Kanban and Agile

Compatibility

We’re often asked, “Is Kanban Agile?” To anyone who understands Kanban as the start with what you do now method, that’s a slightly odd question, but still, it deserves a respectful response.

When “Agile” is used as an adjective like that, it’s worth drilling down a bit to find out what’s really meant by the question:

  • Are the values of Kanban and Agile compatible? Yes, absolutely! There is a basis here not just for comparison but for integration.
  • Can Kanban help “improve agility” or make things “more agile,” improving an existing software development process—explicitly Agile or otherwise—in directions entirely consistent with Agile values and principles? Not only is the answer to that question a resounding “yes,” it is what the method was first developed to do.
  • Is Kanban, in the words of the manifesto, a way of developing software? No. We are splitting hairs, perhaps, but in this sense it is misleading to describe Kanban as an Agile method. It isn’t a development process (or any other kind of delivery process) at all; there is nothing in the definition of the method that ties it to software. It is a management method that is broadly applicable to creative knowledge work, with a particular focus on organizational change.
  • Is Kanban part of the Agile movement? Kanban’s community identity makes sense both inside and outside the Agile movement (note that both communities have a similar relationship with Lean). Some people seem to be troubled by that ambiguity, but actually it’s helpful and necessary. Ideas find room to grow and flourish in their own communities, and when the time is right, there is ample opportunity for cross-fertilization. And to providers of supporting services (trainers, coaches, consultants, and so on), the ability to choose from multiple identities can be very convenient.

At the level of methods and practices:

  • Does Kanban work with iterative methods, Scrum in particular? Yes, and in the case of Scrum, the combination even has a name—Scrumban (described in Chapter 16). Kanban can work both inside Scrum, where it mainly drives team-level improvement, and outside it, where it helps a deliberately team-centric framework address the challenges of scale.
  • Doesn’t Kanban mean abandoning iterations and other elements of Scrum? This is a serious misconception. Kanban is the start with what you do now method; we would be the first to warn you not to drop aspects of your current process in an uncontrolled fashion. However, it would be dishonest of us to pretend that your pursuit of flow won’t at some point test your commitment to timeboxes, story points, and the like. How you and your organization deal with that will be a matter of choice.
  • Do Agile and its methods and practices represent important models for Kanban practitioners? Most definitely yes—it seems almost unthinkable that an effective Kanban practitioner working in the software development domain would get very far without a deep understanding and respect for Agile.

When to Use Kanban

One question remains: In an Agile context, when and how might Kanban help? More questions about your current situation will help answer that:

• Is Agile’s principle of sustainable pace still just an aspiration? Are people still overburdened in a process that doesn’t seem to fit all that well? Could Kanban-style transparency (Chapter 1) and balance (Chapter 2) provide some relief?

• Is your collaboration (Chapter 3) focused mainly inwardly? Does customer focus (Chapter 4) suffer as a result of over-protective intermediation around the team or of excessive internal focus on the technology, the product, or the team?

• Are team-centric and process-centric approaches failing to deliver needed gains in end-to-end flow (Chapter 5)? Are local gains even making things worse elsewhere?

• Are leadership (Chapter 6), understanding (Chapter 7), and agreement under-appreciated? Is respect (Chapter 9) too easily forgotten when the big decisions are being made?

It is hard to change how organizations tick. Agile adoptions face that challenge all the time, and it should come as no surprise that issues such as these arise. Whether you are just planning to set out down that road or are already well along the way, the start with what you do now method is there to help, not to judge.

If your wider organization is ready to make the kind of changes called for by a hard and disruptive [1] Agile adoption and you can be very sure of success, it’s possible that you might not need Kanban. For organizations unprepared to take that risk, Kanban offers an alternative path to agility, an open-ended journey of co-evolution in which better ways of doing things are waiting to be discovered.

The Agile Model

Don’t be fooled by [the preceding part of this chapter’s] necessarily process-centric treatment of FDD, XP, and Scrum. With any of these methods you can go through all the iterative motions and still find that:

  • People serve the process, not the other way around.
  • The product is driven by the loudest internal voices, not the emerging needs of actual customers.
  • Lots of work gets done without the end product ever being used for real.
  • Changes in direction cannot be contemplated, let alone accommodated

On its own, process gets you only so far. If the aim is to be Agile, the Agile values need to be evident. Technicalities aside, if it’s working neither for the team nor for the customer, call it something else!

Agile has been and still is a game-changer. It has legitimized evolutionary delivery, wresting control of swathes of the software industry away from a plan-driven style of project management that was often ill-equipped to deal with uncertainty. No self-respecting Kanban practitioner can afford to ignore it.

[1] http://www.controlchaos.com/storage/scrum-articles/Scrum Is Hard and Disruptive.pdf


Next up: 14. TPS and Lean. Previously: 12. Theory of Constraints (TOC). Start from the beginning: 1. Transparency.

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).

November 11, 2014

STATIK, Kanban’s Hidden Gem (my #lkce14 talk)

Filed under: Kanban — Tags: , , , , , , , — Mike @ 2:19 pm

[Updated – see end of article]

The 2014 autumn conference season closes with Lean Kanban Central Europe 2014, one of my favourite events of the year. My talk expands on the STATIK part of last week’s keynote.

It starts with the underpants gnomes, who (like many) might implement Kanban thus:

  1. ???
  2. Put up a board
  3. ???
  4. Profit!

It finishes with purpose:

Know what you’re delivering, to whom, and why

For at least one audience member, the key slides are in the middle, slides 33-34. I described as “a little old fashioned” the idea that we deliver incrementally in order to get feedback. As per last week’s keynote, we need to be validating relentlessly right through the process; only then can we hope to anticipate customer needs. The change to “hypothesis driven development” isn’t just a change of jargon!

Statik, Kanban’s hidden gem from Mike Burrows

Update: This sketchnote captures slide 50 beautifully:

Sketchnote

I wish I could do that!

September 30, 2014

Kanban from the Inside is now available on Kindle

Filed under: Books,Kanban — Tags: , , , — Mike @ 3:31 pm

In addition to the existing paperback, my book Kanban from the Inside is now available on Kindle via amazon.comamazon.co.ukamazon.de and amazon.fr and (no doubt) other amazons also. A PDF e-book is also available via the djaa.com store.

In a two-sentence summary: understand the Kanban Method, connect it with familiar models such as Lean, Agile, and Theory of Constraints, and learn how to implement it step-by-step in your organization. Learn practical techniques to apply the Kanban Method, always considering the context of your situation and the people involved.

Read it, then leave a review!

September 4, 2014

Did I mention that I have a book out?

Filed under: Books,Kanban — Tags: , , , , , , — Mike @ 3:57 am

Thrilled that I can move Kanban from the Inside to the “Published” column now! Complete with an awesome foreword by Luke Hohmann, It’s available in paperback on Amazon (I checked .com, .co.uk, .de and .fr) and a Kindle version will be available very soon. Reviews should start to arrive in the next few days.

[Update: As of September 29th the Kindle edition is now available, and a PDF e-book is also available via the djaa.com store.]

It has been quite a long haul, but I don’t regret a minute of it. It all started right here 20 months ago with a humble blog post Introducing Kanban through its values, but that title describes just 9 of the 23 chapters. There’s also all the “models”—Systems Thinking, Lean, Agile, Theory of Constraints and so on—and the implementation approach, STATIK. Serious work on the book started in July last year when I presented an outline to Janice and David; writing took a little less than a year after that, but then there’s all the other stuff…

I should mention that we can handle bulk orders and can produce corporate branded versions with your logo on the cover and your message on an inside page. Enquiries to sales@djaa.com. You can enquire after my own availability there also. In the immediate term given current workload, single days in the UK or an evening’s hop away.

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.

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