October 2, 2014

A fine evening of Kanban

I’m just riding on the train back from this evening’s fun at the Kanban Coaching Exchange with Helen Meek and Dan Brown. The night was the ‘The Get Kanban Experience’ which was playing the game ‘Get Kanban’ in small groups of about 5 people. There were 5 or 6 teams and the aim is to make the imaginary company as profitable as possible through Kanban.

The board game is very good and the learning starts immediately.

The game starts on day 9 of the development cycle and the team rolls dice (one for each imaginary team member) and this says how much work was done by that member for the day.
Being a pull system, the testers go first, then development and then analysts. The board is one big Kanban board with swim lanes and columns with WIP limits.

The cards have value attached to them such as $LOW, $MED and $HIGH and has a number of work effort for each team role to complete in order to move the cards along the swim lanes.

Certain constraints are there to make the game more interesting such as a 3 day replenish cycle and 3 day release cycle. These make it harder to balance the flow. In addition crazy characters come in like Carlos the test manager and Pete the stored procedure guy.

We discussed many learning points and quickly realised balancing the flow across the board is way more important than having everyone busy. Dan compared this to cars trying to get out of the junction where there is one of those yellow grids painted on the road. Your car is ‘pulled’ by a space on the other side. We discussed the problem of having blockers and the devastating impact that this brings to workflow and lead time. Cards should meet a definition of done to reduce the chance of blockers. Much like meeting the MOT requirements for a car so your car doesn’t block the entire road.

We also experienced the cost of the expedited lane and Dan (to continue the traffic metaphor) likened this to the hard shoulder on a motorway. The hard shoulder slows down our roads by 25% and is usually empty. However, every now and again, we get an expedited emergency service vehicle zooming down to save a life. The cost is hidden in the daily traffic but the benefit is occasionally met but vital.

The winner of the game was the team who learnt the most.

The evening was made possible by Macmillan kindly donating their great room and by Ripple Rock sponsoring the evening. It was a great evening and there was good networking too.

 

 

 

Simon Powers
Simon Powers is an Agile Coach specialising in large scale transformations and agile adoption. He has a background in very large enterprise architecture which has led on to organisational design and agile process refinement. Simon is the founder of Adventures with Agile.