Kanban Values for the Workplace

This week I had the honour of speaking with somebody considering the adoption of one of the kanban tools that I use, with a request to share my experiences with it. My participation in this conversation was mostly due to the fact that I use kanban outside of technology development and use it for curriculum design and administrative purposes at a university.

We discussed the methods in how I used virtual kanban for our teams (and the absolute need for it with all of my team being remote) so she could apply our use of it with possibilities for her team. However, I want to share a couple of the overarching themes discussed for anybody considering kanban with their team.

Kanban is just a tool.

I was asked how I determined my board flow and explained that I simply removed myself from the board concept and mapped my value stream. Once I knew how my work flowed within the team, I made the board layout match that value stream. This brought up the concept of template board layouts available when creating a new board. As every process is varied, I advised to avoid the templates, start with the basic ToDo/Doing/Done, and then change the layout to address the value stream mapping that the user should have on hand at this point.

Side note and humble opinion: Templates seem to be intended to help beginners, but in reality, discourages the discovery process of value stream mapping. If this essential step is skipped and a team relies strictly on a pre-made template, the workflow is likely not really being represented. This can result in the tool being abandoned or the tool causing more harm than good as the team tries to adjust to the template, losing cadence in their workflow.

Kanban is a dynamic tool.

In my conversation, I focused on the need to reflect on the process with the team. Does it still work? Where can it be improved? What are some obstacles that are perceived to stem from the board? Reflection is a powerful tool, and if a team forces their way through the original workflow that was developed, then growth and improvement won’t occur….or it will occur and the board is abandoned because the board is perceived as the problem.

My personal experience is that one should start simple and it will likely swing into being overly complicated. The team will cut out a lot of the complications back to simplicity, but still an improvement over the original simplicity. This seems, in my experience, to be a continual cycle with the right movements towards articulation increasing over the longer scope of time as long as the reflection time is being respected.


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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.