Kanban Katas and Recipes – Kanban Leadership Retreat 2012 session #klrat

You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction. —Alvin Toffler

This session was a follow up on my Kanban Kata session on day 2. I was volunteered to do this session, which I did not mind at all. This session had two topics:

  1. Do we need a vision to get started with Improvement Kata?
  2. Recipes (Katas) for improvement + discussions

My goal for the session was to find some Kanban Katas and Recipes and then start defining the actual steps.

Do we need a vision to get started with Improvement Kata?

But we started the session discussing if a process vision al ’a the Toyota Kata vision is needed to get started. We discussed at length what an actual Toyota Kata really is all about. Is it a regular business mission? A vision for how a process should work?

We looked at what Toyotas vision looked like:

Toyota has for several decades been pursuing a long-term vision that consists of:

  • Zero defects
  • 100 percent value added
  • One-piece flow, in sequence, on demand
  • Security for people

Mike Rother, Toyota Kata

And here are two short exerts from The Toyota Kata book that we did not look at but describes it well I think:

…a vision, or direction giver, is not simply a quantitative target. It is a broad description of a condition we would like to have achieved in the future.

A long-term vision or direction helps focus our thinking and doing, because without it proposals are evaluated independently, instead of as part of striving toward something.

Mike Rother, Toyota Kata

We also discussed if a vision is really needed to get stated. There where two main camps:

  1. You should have a vision before you start
  2. You don’t need a vision

I a vision is important. You should set one and then refine it as you go. I also think you can get started without a clear vision as it more important to get going and practice the Improvement Kata that have the “correct” vision.

We did not arrive at a consensus on this before we moved on to the next topic of the session.

Kanban Kata’s and Recipes

These were the first round of potential recipes and Katas we collected


Kanban Kata’s In-between Kanban Recipes
OPS-review Visualize Process + Lack of Progress + Predicted Completion Define measurers
Show the lead time
Cycle time
Value Stream
Retrospective “Practices” Thrivometer
Daily meeting / queue review   Value Stream Mapping
Improvement Kata   RCA
Kaizen   Board design
Problem solving   Technical issues
Replenishment   Work Item Types

We did not have time dive deeper and define potential steps as we shifted to actually apply the Improvement Kata to the challenge of the session.

Running the Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata

Gary Perkerwicz was just brilliant running through the Improvement Kata as a coach and Royd Brayshay as the mentee using the Coaching Kata.

I could swear that at one time I got a Déjà vu moment from my Toyota Kata training with Bill Constantino when I heard the following:

Gary – And when can we go and see?

Royd – Hmm, in one week?!

Gary – And when can we go and see?

Royd squirming not knowing what to answer

Gary – And when can we go and see?

Royd – Tomorrow, I guess?!

Gary – Great see you tomorrow

The focus in Toyota Kata is to run it all the time and in very short cycles(hours or days).

Bellow is a picture of the artifacts we collected from the Improvement Kata session.


We did not get the result in this session as I was hoping for, but people seem happy with the result and I think we all learned a lot by actually running the Improvement and Coaching Kata.


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

Kanban Kata – Kanban Leadership Retreat 2012 session #klrat


This was the first session I hosted and my intension for the session was to get answers to the following questions:

  • Validate if the concept of Katas would be useful in Kanban.
  • What would the Kanban Katas be?
  • What would the main steps be in the Kanban Katas?
  • How would we as a community move forward with Kanban Katas?

To set the stage for the discussions I went through a very early draft of a presentation on the subject. I had planed to only spend approximately 30 minutes on this before we moved on to the questions and the discussions. But it turned out that we spent almost the whole 90 minutes to discuss the content of the presentation in it’s self and I even had to skip some slides to complete in time.

We discussed in length the different concepts of the Improvement Kata and the Coaching Kata. We discussed the concept of a process vision from the Improvement Kata and its importance. David J. Anderson even realized that he had used an implicit version of a process vision and process target conditions at Corbis.

At the end of the session we started to touch on the potential Katas in Kanban. In my presentation I suggested that there is at least three Katas that we could start with:

  • The Daily meeting
  • The Operations review meeting
  • A line manager to team manager daily or weekly Improvement and Coaching Kata

We also discussed some other areas. We discussed the use of the word Kata as some of the suggestions did not really fit the Kata concept. A suggestion to use the term recipes was something the attendees seemed to like.


Gauging by the interest and the feedback(see picture above) I received from this session I would say that the Kanban Leadership Retreat attendees would agree with the statement bellow


This session spawned one more session for day 3 with these two topics:

  • Do we need a vision to get started with Improvement Kata?
  • Recipes (Katas) for improvement + discussions

I was very pleased with all the positive response I got and I will continue work in this concept and hope to be able to present the result this fall.