DO PM goes Kanban Crazy

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Wed 17th June turned out to be a great night for DO PM. We had a really good turnout and the feedback we received was very warm and positive.

We were looking at the subject of Kanban; both its origins and how its principles affect our day to day work. The evening started with Steve ‘Danger Zone’ Thomas introducing a potted history of Kanban and some of the principles behind it.

His slides are available here: Kanban Slides

Following that Anthony Glass introduced the first of the night’s activities. Teams split into groups of 4 and had to follow a process, involving four distinct sets of task.  The activity was based on the lego activity here:

Kanban Lego Game

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Following two round of this game, we learned some valuable lessons.

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In the first run through, teams followed no system which lead to major bottlenecks at the third stage of production. In the second run through each station was only allowed to start their next task once the previous station had picked up their delivery. This began to iron out the cycle time.

The results were really astonishing. The second method had a lot less work in progress (as you might expect) when the time ran out, but most of the teams actually ended up producing more goods. Primarily because there was less stress, and less clutter building up on the table. You could argue that teams became more efficient through experience but overall it was a really effective demonstration of how a well organised system can improve production.

The next game related to batch sizing. It was based on the coin game detailed here:

Coin Game 

Teams of 4 had to flip over 20 coins before passing them onto the next station. We started with one batch of twenty and then gradually reduced the batches to 10, then 5 and then let teams pick their own process. Not only did it show that smaller batches resulted in significantly faster production rates; this was also a good demonstration of continuous improvement – as teams were having mini retrospectives at the end of each round as to how they could improve their process.

Overall it was a great night and a fun introduction to the principles behind Kanban. We didn’t really have the time (or expertise) to get into a detailed breakdown of how to run Kanban software projects, but we have included further reading for those that want to pick this up and take it further. Judging by the enthusiasm for last night’s session, it may be that we choose to revisit Kanban at a later date with a guest speaker or a more specific focus. Leave a comment if you’d like to see this or have any further suggestions for meet-up topics.

Useful web resources we referenced

Recommended Reading

Please post any other useful resources you know of in the comments

2 thoughts on “DO PM goes Kanban Crazy

    1. Hi Stephen, I read ‘The Phoenix Project’ after you suggested it and although I found the first few ‘scene setting’ chapters painful (what a dysfunctional bunch), once the book got into the Kanban bit I really enjoyed it.
      A novel is a really good vehicle to help understand some of the more complex principles of Kanban and visualise how you might make them work.

      Thanks for the suggestion!

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