August 25, 2015

Kanban is not something that you can learn in 4 hours

Kanban GameAdventures with Agile is very proud to host Klaus Leopold for his advanced Kanban class later in October. I contacted Klaus because, as far as I know, he is one of the only people in the world to have real world experience in implementing Kanban at large scale and I was interested to understand what challenges he had found and whether Kanban is really a viable scaling framework.

Logically Kanban can scale to any size, but could it really work? Is it too simple for the vast complex organisational process challenges we have today?

I was very pleased to confirm what I had already suspected and that was that not only did it work on paper but it worked in practice too. However, it wasn’t just a board with swim lanes, columns and WIP limits. There is a lot more to Kanban that one must understand before using it for anything more than tracking stories through the sprint.

I had previously played the Kanban game and seen how there are observable patterns that emerge on the board that are directly related to the organisational impediments and structural issues that most organisations face today. Seeing these patterns and knowing how to deal with them is far more powerful than simply tracking work items. Kanban can be used for real in depth organisational system thinking and problem definition.

The more you use the board, class of services and patterns, the better and deeper insights you get.

Incidentally, if you want to play a simulation of the Kanban game at work, let me know, and I can arrange a workshop.

So, given that there is a huge wealth of information that we can gain from Klaus, I asked him if he would present some ideas and experience at Adventures with Agile and to run a 2 day training course to cover the advanced aspects. I was very happy that he agreed.

I did a bit of research into the Kanban training market and found that surprisingly not many people go on Kanban courses. The reason it seems, is a cognitive bias which follows the Kruger-Dunning effect, that even Agile coaches or ‘experts’ feel that Kanban is so simple that they don’t need to train to learn it. I have written this article, not to try to make money on ticket sales! But to encourage coaches and organisational design consultants to reconsider that idea and to come to Klaus’ course so that you and your organisations can gain deeper understanding of the challenges you face through the window of Kanban.


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.