3 easy ways of improving your Kanban system

14 Jun, 2015
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You are working in a Kanban team and after a few months it doesn’t seem to be as easy and effective as it used to be. Here are three tips on how to get that energy back up.

1. Recheck and refresh all policies

IMG_1884New team members haven’t gone through the same process as the other team members. This means that they probably won’t pick up on the subtleties of the board and policies that go with it. Over time team agreements that were very explicit (remember the Kanban Practice: “Make Policies Explicit”?) aren’t anymore. For example: A blue stickie that used to have a class of service associated with it becomes a stickie for the person that works on the project. Unclear policies lead to loss of focus, confusion and lack of flow. Do a check if all policies are still valid, clear and understood by everybody. If not, get rid of them or improve them!

2. Check if WIP limits are understood and adhered to

In the first time after a team starts using Kanban, Work in Progress (WIP) limits are not completely optimized for flow. They usually are higher to minimize resistance from team and stakeholders as tighter WIP limits require a higher maturity of the organization. The team should start to adjust (lower) the limits to optimize flow. Lack team focus on improvement of flow can make that they don’t adjust WIP limits.
Reevaluate current WIP limits, adjust them for bottlenecks and lower and discuss next steps. It will return the focus to help the team to “Start Finishing”.

3. Do a complete overhaul of the board

IMG_0307It sounds counter intuitive, but sometimes it helps to take the board and do a complete runthrough of the steps to design a Kanban System. Analyze up- and downstream stakeholders and model the steps the work flows through. After that update the legend and policies for classes of service.
Even if the board looks almost the same, the discussion and analysis might lead to subtle changes that make a world of difference. And it’s good for team spirit!

I hope these tips can help you. Please share any that you have in the comments!


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