Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kanban Adoption at SEP

Chris Shinkle gave a talk about Kanban adoption at SEP during the Agile 2009 conference. Chris described the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition and showed how the team at SEP progressed from one stage to the other as they learned and applied Kanban.
Stage 1 – Novice: Little or no previous experience. It is about following context free rules. No discretionary judgment. Want to accomplish a goal, not learn. Team had clear understanding of project, clear priority of work items, and clearly see progress from the introduction of Kandan boards and standup meetings.

Stage 2 – Advanced Beginner: Still rules based, but start understanding rules within context and based on past experience. Team understood WIP (work in progress) limits, began to collaborate and identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement.

Stage 3 – Competent: People recognize patterns and principles. Rule sets become more rules of thumb. They start to establish guidelines and seek out and solve problems. They see actions in terms of long term plans and goals. The team felt a sense of ownership. They started pulling in alternate practices to optimize the process and solve specific problems. They began to discover and understand lean principles themselves. Things like cause and effect of flow, value, quality, quality, and waste.

Stage 4 – Proficient: People seek out and want to understand the big picture. They perceive a complete system instead of a set of individual parts. They can learn from the experience of others and take full advantage of reflection and feedback and correct previous poor task performance. The team starts to focus on throughput and reducing cycle time. They began to focus on optimizing the whole and reducing the cost of delay and WIP limits. Kaizen moments became more common place.

Stage 5 – Expert: They can look at each situation immediately and intuitively take appropriate action. They know what to focus on and can distinguish between important details and irrelevant ones. Chris’s teams haven’t reached this stage yet.

Chris believes that it is ok to talk about principles but teaching principles does not equate to acquiring a new skill. Kanban provides a framework where principles can be introduced. Then the process in and of itself is going to help encourage those behaviors and allow people to understand them at their own pace.

Next Chris shares the lessons learned:

1. Start by teaching practices, not principles

2. Don’t set WIP limits too low for a new team

3. Keep rules about moving tokens/cards simple

4. WIP is strongly correlated to product quality.

Finally, Chris concludes by stating that Kanban teams mature in a way consistent with the Dryfus model. Kanban is an effective tool for teaching lean principles and managing change in an organization. There multiple levels of maturity and at each level certain behavior guide your focus.

This presentation is available on InfoQ at  http://www.infoq.com/presentations/kanban-at-sep