Reinvigorating an existing Kanban implementation with STATIK

Posted on July 23, 2014 by mikeburrows

This spring I noticed [1] that the rather clunky name we give to the implementation process for Kanban that we teach in our classes and private workshops has a catchy acronym, STATIK. Just as we hoped, this is turning out to be much "stickier" than the systems thinking approach to introducing Kanban; we find that not only do we refer to it a lot, so do our clients.


Interestingly, we are finding it useful to bring up STATIK when we are advising people involved in existing implementations that are failing to make the headway they want – momentum being lost, internal performance not improving, scope not growing, and so on. We have long described STATIK as an iterative process, so let's see how it works in the context of an existing implementation.

STATIK has six main steps (I'm hiding some of the detail here, but this is sufficient for our purposes):

  1. Understand sources of dissatisfaction

  2. Analyze demand and capability

  3. Model the knowledge discovery process

  4. Discover classes of service

  5. Design kanban systems

  6. Roll out

It's a highly repeatable process, but in following it linearly it's easy to miss some of the possibilities of each of its steps. Let's think of the implementations we have been asked to help as being stuck somewhere between steps 5 and 6; we will backtrack as far as is needed to get things unstuck – "Reverse STATIK" if you like.

Step 5 (kanban systems): Does the design of our kanban board adequately reflect how we are working? Is our work-in-progress (WIP) under control, with work flowing smoothly towards completion? Do our feedback loops adequately control system performance, product quality, and so on? Do our replenishment practices get the most important work to the front of the queue, and do they respect the WIP already in the system?

If we identify some potential changes at step 5, there may be no need to step back any further until they have been tested. When this has been done we can re-ask those questions or continue the quest. Steps 4, 3, and 2 prompt questions such as these:

Step 4 (classes of service): For each class of service (you have them, right?) are we meeting expectations? Is the allocation of work across classes of service both healthy (not, for example, a mix of only fixed date and expedited work) and compatible with broader organisational expectations? What about the balance between short-term, medium-term and longer-term work, or between different customers or categories thereof?

Step 3 (the knowledge discovery process): What knowledge is captured at each stage of the process? Working backwards from the moment we finally make sure that our work is meeting customer needs, what do we do to ensure a positive result?

Step 2 (demand and capability): How well does our system reflect the types of work that we deliver (the "what"), the people we deliver (the "to whom"), and why they need it (the "why")? Is there more we could do to encourage the right work to come to our system at the right time, in smaller batches or smoother bursts, perhaps? What is the gap between demand and capability, and on which side of that equation is there the most leverage?

If you get to here and still find nothing to change, there's step 1:

Step 1 (sources of dissatisfaction): Looking at our system from the outside (and actually involving people in this, not guessing on their behalf), what dissatisfactions do customers and other stakeholders have with it? Similarly, what frustrates the efforts of those working from the inside? To what extent do these external and internal perspectives explain each other?

No dissatisfactions? Enjoy it while it lasts! Not satisfied with that? Dig deeper into the "what, to whom, and why" of step 2, with step 0.

Step 0: Understand the purpose of the system

A better understanding of the system's purpose will give you a better understanding of what work to choose, how to go about it, and how to measure its effectiveness. It is likely also to give you a deeper insight into dissatisfactions and sources of demand, returning us to STATIK's steps 1-6, in the more conventional forward direction.

How did you go about creating your kanban systems? If you regret taking a less structured approach, all is not lost!

[1] STATIK, Kanban’s hidden gem (personal blog)

Mike Burrows (Twitter:@asplake) is UK Director and Principal Consultant at David J Anderson & Associates.