The Kanban Guide talks about optimizing the workflow for three different attributes: effectiveness, efficiency, and predictability. It talks about the fact that any optimizations we perform will be a balance across these three and that over-optimizing on one may make the others worse.
If you have a need to know when the work will be done or how much you can do in a certain period of time then predictability will be important to you. We have great tools like monte carlo for probabilistic forecasting but the truth is that the forecast we generate is only as good as the data we give it. Garbage in yields garbage out. So how do we improve our data to make it inherently more predictable?
A manager at a past client of mine once had a new request come in. The new request would impact multiple different teams, that would all have to make changes to their individual pieces and then integrated. Because it was potentially a large change, he asked all the teams involved to come up with an estimate and they came back with a total estimate of ten to twelve weeks.
You’ve probably heard that a blocked column on a board is a bad practice and most of the time that’s true. Let’s see why it’s usually bad and when it might actually be ok.
The term “technical debt” is widely used in the industry even if there isn’t a clear definition of it and almost nobody uses the term in the way Ward Cunningham meant when he first coined it. It’s most commonly used to describe things in our environment, usually but not always code, that slow us down. These are things that are working - not bugs - but that are implemented in a poor way that makes them more difficult to understand or modify.
Many teams assume that they have to fit all their work on to one board and that’s not true. Kanban boards are there to help you visualize and manage the system. If one board can do that well then one board is fine. If it would be easier or better to visualize and manage across multiple boards then that’s what you should do.
We regularly talk about optimizing the workflow but we don’t talk as often about who should be doing that optimization. Should it be the manager, or some dedicated process specialist, or should we be leaving it up to the team to figure out their own workflow?
When creating a forecast first ask yourself whether you are forecasting One Thing or Multiple Things. It’s not always clear which of these situations you are in but the approach you take to creating the forecast will differ significantly. This post will help you to figure out which approach to take.
The Kanban Guide defines three core practices. The first is “define and visualize a workflow” and while it describes what needs to be in that workflow, it doesn’t give any guidance on how to facilitate as session with a team to do that definition. In this video, I describe how I facilitate a session with teams to define their workflow.
In a Kanban model, one thing we find most teams struggle with are WIP limits. Everyone wants to just start one more item even if we’re already at the limit. Surely one more can’t hurt. Except of course, it does.