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Priming Kanban: A 10 Step Guide to Optimizing Flow in your Software Delivery System

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Our summary and key takeaways

Jesper Boeg's book is a 10 step guide on how to start using Lean and Kanban principles to optimize value and flow in a system. Jesper recommends Kanban to teams that experience following workflow problems: struggling to get Agile, doing it with not much or no success, needing to make your process more flexible and in a gradual way.

The 10 steps, that Boeg recommends we take are:

1. Workflow visualization:

Aimed at making the process transparent, placing the team's focus on the whole, rather than on individual aspects of it. Visualization also helps identify waste.

2. Limiting Work In Progress:

Deciding on how many items each team member can work on at one time tends to raise the quality, cut out multitasking (reduce waste caused by context switching) and improve the cycle time.

3. Set up quality assurance policies:

Quality can and should be monitored and facilitated at all stages of the process. Making sure that a correct, explicit policy for dealing with issues is in place also ensures high quality of work throughout.

4. Adjust cadence:

For Lean methods it's vital to test the designed solutions with users as soon as possible, therefore Jesper recommends, that you apply one cadence, during which a solution is prepared and submitted to feedback, and another for actual full deployment of the solution.

5. Measure flow:

Following the measurements is key to recognizing improvement opportunities and stopping any impediments. Use Cumulative Flow Diagrams, Cycle Time measurement, Defect Rate and follow Blocked Items.

6. Prioritize:

Use visual signs to underline the priority tasks, but don't make the mistake of over-prioritization, as you'll lose track of the overall workflow and diminish the value of a high priority task.

7. Define classes of service:

Make an effort to decide on what types of tasks will come across your board and ensure that color-coding is being followed. This way you stand a chance of getting a better overview of the work to do.

8. Manage flow:

Once your board is set, this is by no means the end of paying attention. Keep a close look at whether the policies and WIP limits you've decided on are right, and whether the stages are still true to the process.

9. Establish service level agreements:

This part is crucial, if you want to be respected and taken seriously by your customers. Since you now have a stable pull system, by following the metrics, you should be able to advertise your delivery rates to the potential clientele.

10. Focus on continuous improvement:

Arguably the hardest and the most vital part of Agility. Make sure you're always looking for ways to make the process even better suited to your needs. Without this, you are not doing Kanban.

To finish off, here is also some good practice advice on making a start with Kanban in your organization:

  • Don't start by implementing changes - begin with what you're doing now, just add visualization and WIP limits
  • Make a decision to aim for incremental and evolutionary change.

Good luck!

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