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Mastering the Art of Practicing Kanban

Practice! Practice! Practice!

We know that the only way to really master new knowledge is by practising it for a substantial period of time. This is the most crucial statement in the Agile Manifesto:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.

But, “doing” is not everything. Doing without having a basic understanding of the underlying principles and concepts is, often, quite dangerous and can result in significant harm to businesses and people.

Knowledge without practice is useless. Practice without knowledge is dangerous.

I have been working in the Agile space for well over a decade and I have been part of the Kanban community for over 6 years. Some evidence of this increasingly important issue of “practice without (sufficient) knowledge” is the range of myths that spread widely in the community. These are often repeated by people who reject the idea of attending training courses and similar learning opportunities.

These are some examples of the myths we hear about Kanban:

  • Kanban does not work for projects or products
  • Kanban doesn’t care about the people side of work
  • Kanban and Scrum are incompatible
  • Kanban is only for the team level
  • Kanban is only for technicians
  • Kanban doesn’t scale

These are all myths and misunderstandings. We could build a similar list for practically every other method in the Lean Agile space.

So, wouldn’t it be great it be great if we could learn Kanban in depth? Wouldn’t it help to have a more accurate appreciation of why Kanban can be such a powerful addition to your toolkit and knowledge? Wouldn’t it be great if our practice was underpinned by a better understanding of what we are trying to do?

Over the past few years the options to learn Kanban have been expanding and now we have a fairly rich and diverse catalogue suitable for different market needs.

Here are some of the most popular options.

Kanban Systems Design (KMP1)

The Kanban Systems Design (KMP1) course is the most common entry point to Kanban for most people. Certified by Lean Kanban University, we have been delivering it since 2012.

If you want to understand the core concepts behind Kanban, learn how to visualise your work system, experience the power of applying WIP limits, and apply the Kanban method to a single system to begin your path to Agility, KMP1 is the way.

Kanban Management Professional (KMP2)

This is the second part of the Lean Kanban University foundation-level certified education in Kanban. We have been delivering it since it was introduced in 2015.

How do we scale Kanban? What can we do to manage dependencies between different teams and services? How do we anticipate what work is coming to us? How do we coordinate our deliveries with other teams? How do we deal with change? How can we manage the variability in our work? What about managing risk?

KMP2 answers these questions and delves into the roles and cadences which have emerged as Kanban has been practised in knowledge work.

Team Kanban Practitioner (TKP)

One of the core change principles of Kanban is “Encourage acts of leadership at all levels”.

However, in many business environments, things start happening around people, without giving them an opportunity to understand why it is happening and how things work.

We hear great sound bites like “we want to empower people to take the lead and make decisions”, but then we fail to provide people with the necessary knowledge and tools to succeed.

The most basic Kanban agenda is to create a sustainable work environment. To achieve this, visualising work and bringing balance (limiting) to the amount of work in progress are the fundamental steps to be able to start improving the quality of our work environment and the work itself.

The Team Kanban Practitioner training can introduce a very wide range of people to the most basic aspects of Kanban and explores how to achieve significant improvements by simply trying to make things sustainable.

TKP is a training course that can be arranged for entire teams to join and collaboratively discover and explore how Kanban can bring a lot of benefits.

Professional Scrum with Kanban (PSK)

One of the most common questions we see is “Which should I use: Scrum or Kanban?” Why wouldn’t you use both?

In February 2018, scrum.org published the Kanban Guide for Scrum Teams and announced the PSK I certification. This was the result of a collaboration between scrum.org, Dan Vacanti, Yuval Yeret and Steve Porter.

PSK shows how compatible Kanban is with Scrum and how you can use flow and metrics to complement your existing Scrum practices and achieve your Sprint Goals.

Agile Metrics, Forecasting & Predictability Workshop

One of the questions that will never go from our work environment is when will it be done?

Understanding when a project may be delivered, or how many features could be delivered by a specific date are challenges we all run in to. At the core, companies want to have predictable environment where they can make appropriate decision.

There are metrics and forecasting techniques that can help us provide answers to these questions when working in VUCA environments (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous).

But forecasting is not enough, we also need to have metrics that allow us to understand how work is progressing and anticipate flow issues.

Dan Vacanti’s course is an eye-opening experience; it provides you with an impressive set of tools and techniques to address these challenges.

What are you waiting for?

We operate in a challenging, complex, ever-changing world. It’s hard to keep pace with it. What would it be like if we had tools to help? At Actineo, we provide training, coaching and consulting that deals with our challenging work places and help us keep up with the pace of change.

This article was written collaboratively with Jean-Paul Bayley.

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