Are the Kanban practices in the right order? – Kanban Leadership Retreat 2012 session #klrat

This was the second session I hosted. Ever since David J. Anderson started to talk of the use of the core practices in terms of shallow vs. deep. I have had the nagging thought that ordering seems to be wrong. I proposed this session to find out if others shared my thinking or found it flawed.

For some time now David J. Anderson has presented the use of the different core Kanban practices is an indication of it’s depth. The more core practices you use the deeper your implementation of the Kanban method would be (including the new number 5).

5 core practices for successful Kanban adoptionThe order being:

  1. Visualize
  2. Limit WIP
  3. Manage Flow
  4. Make polices explicit
  5. Implement Feedback Mechanisms
  6. Improve Collaborative using models and the scientific method

The most shallow implementation would only use practice 1 and as you move down the list the depth of the implementation deepen.

Based on my experience of introducing Kanban in organizations a more appropriate ordering would be:

  1. DSC02346Visualize
  2. Make polices explicit
  3. Manage Flow
  4. Limit WIP
  5. Implement Feedback Mechanisms
  6. Improve Collaborative using models and the scientific method

Johan Nordin and Christophe Achouiantz superb presentation Igniting change in 20 teams within 6 months from Lean Kanban Central Europe 2011 last year also seems to point in that direction.

In the session we discussed the ordering and a few different suggestion to a “correct” way to order the practices where discussed but we did not come reach consensus. Arguments was raised that the depth of the different practices could also vary and that would impact the total depth of the implementation.

As the discussions continued someone suggested (I can’t remember who) that maybe a Radar/Spider Chart would be a more useful model show depth of implementation. Each practice would have a separate leg. The deeper the implementation of that practice the further from the center it would be placed on the chart. Connecting the depth of the different practices would show the total implementation depth. The bigger the area the deeper the implementation.  So we drew this:


There seemed to be a high consensus in the room that this would be a better model. Concerns was raised that this model could push people in to assessing an implementations maturity. Removing the actual tick marks on the legs and only use a relative measure could prevent this thinking. The goal would to grow the area over time but there is no absolute levels defined.

This session turned out to be very interesting for me and it looks like people are experimenting with Radar/Spider Chart already.

David J Anderson Kanban Practices Shallow-Deep  Klaus Leopold Kanban Practices Shallow-Deep

The first picture are from a David J. Anderson class the week after the conference. The second picture is from a class with Klaus Leopold

12 thoughts on “Are the Kanban practices in the right order? – Kanban Leadership Retreat 2012 session #klrat

  1. henriklarsson 2012-06-29 / 13:57

    The suggest new order of practices makes sense. Limiting WIP is actually quite difficult and a Kanban board without explicit policies is more or less useless.

    • Eric Willeke (@erwilleke) 2013-03-17 / 17:32

      I hadn’t seen this until you referenced it in Kanbandev today, and I entirely agree based on my coaching and teaching.

      I actually draw limit just before flow, but I could see it either way, perhaps a step “Acheive flow” if I were making it a procedure…. for me it goes something like “Visualize, explicit work policies, establish limits, achieve flow, manage to flow, …”

      • Håkan Forss 2013-03-17 / 17:52

        People in the session had had success implementing the Kanban practices in so many different orders. That is the reason the spider model came up. We could not agree on a specific order. An I think this was a good conclusion.

  2. François Michas 2012-07-10 / 05:56

    The spider is a very interesting assessment tool but how do you assess the different level of maturity on each axis, how can you assess that the practice is deep or shallow, what are your criteria ? Assembling the whole axis picture have you observed any pattern ?
    I’m just a beginner in Kanban topic. Before starting i’d like to use this tool to assess the current practices of our teams to show them that they already have some kind of asset they can rely on to progress toward deeper kanban practices.

    • Håkan Forss 2012-07-11 / 00:26

      Hi François,
      In the session we discussed if there should be some defined levels of the different practices to do a formal assessment of your Kanban depth. We were all in agreement that such an assessment is not desirable. Instead you could see the spider chart as a relative visualization of your own depth. As you think you are deepening your use of a practice you move it further from the center in the chart. As the area grows you can see where you need to focus your next effort of deepening your practices.

      My advice to you is just to get started. Don’t analyze too much. Do some thinking of how you want your processes to work. Is it short lead times? High reliability? High quality? When you have an idea what direction you want to go take a good look where you are today. Collect your process data. Then set a target condition that is in the direction of how you process should work. Now run small daily or weekly controlled experiments on your process to try to reach the target condition. When you do, set a new target condition closer to the final destination and repeat.
      Kanban is all about small changes from where you are today towards your process nirvana.

      Good luck! Håkan

      Remember at least 50% of your experiments will probably not generate the result you expect. This is great as this is how you learn.

  3. Erik G 2012-07-11 / 22:46

    My experience is consistent with your assertion that “Explicit Policies” warrants being moved up the list. I have found it is to be easier to implement than “Limiting WIP” or “Managing Flow” and as it is fundamental to insight, learning, and improvement I would recommend it as a stepping stone.

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