KANBAN FOR OPS: THE POWER OF CASE STUDIES

Posted on August 25, 2011 by admin

 

By Dominica DeGrandis

I joined Daniel Vacanti  last week in Seattle for his Kanban training class for Software Engineering.  During much of the past year, my focus has been teaching Kanban-for-Ops (Operations) classes, and I had forgotten how the two subjects differ in their curricula.

One of the more significant differences is the inclusion of case studies of ops teams using Kanban. While teaching ops classes and attending tech conferences in both the U.S. and Europe, I was able to collect a variety of fascinating stories from various technology companies using Kanban in ops.

 

To date, little has been published on how ops teams implement Kanban, which may explain why the stories are so well received during class.  I know a session is going well when the class energy level is sustained right through the mid-afternoon.  And nothing, it seems, lifts people’s energy like a real story - eyes light up, voices are raised and questions flow.

 

On the afternoon of day 2 of last week’s Seattle class, we offered attendees several options: 1) Give more time for people to work on their kanban boards;  2)  Dive into the “How to Get Started with Kanban” session; or 3)  Look at case studies on Kanban-for-Ops.

 

The class chose the case studies, which brought a different perspective to how the kanban system that these developers had just designed might be useful downstream.  It was fascinating to me to see the interest and excitement this generated.  Developers related enthusiastically to the similar problem sets addressed in the ops case studies.

 

Problems such as conflicting projects, where different teams share limited resources are common.  In one case study, requests from “pushy” people attempting to jump their item to the front of the line is handled with a policy requiring justification (via brief business case) during the daily standup meeting.  If no objections are raised, the item is allowed to jump the queue.  This policy allows for flexibility when needed and reduces annoying attempts to cut in line.

Presenting case studies provides food for thought when designing a Kanban system.  They are an excellent way to demonstrate the effect of policies on teams.  They also provide attendees with a sense of community – other teams are dealing with similar issues and have found solutions.

 

Admittedly, all our Kanban training classes and workshops are sprinkled with stories of people using Kanban to solve problems.  But in the Kanban-for-Ops training class, case studies are prominent.  And if the class surveys are an indicator of value, case studies should remain in theKanban-for-Ops curricula for some time.

 

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