Kanban by David Anderson reading notes

Written by Keith McDonnell. Last updated on Monday, January 17, 2011.

Kanban by David Anderson is available to purchase on his website

What is a Kanban method?

Kanban means signal card in Japansese. It represents a unit of capacity in a system. It can also be a signalling mechanism, eg plane ticket (providing direction/instruction). A kanban system can be used to:

Recipe for success from Goldratt’s Theory of contraints

  1. Visualize Workflow
  2. Limit Work-in-Progress
  3. Measure and Manage Flow
  4. Make Process Policies Explicit
  5. Use Models to Recognize Improvement Opportunities

Excessive defects are the biggest waste in software development. Therefore focus on quality to reduce waste. Quality improvement techniques include:

Reduce Work-in-Progress and Deliver Often Frequent Releases Build Trust.

Balance Demand against Throughput

Starting a Kanban change initiative

  1. Agree on a set of goals for introducing Kanban.
  2. Map the value stream
  3. Define some point where you want to control input.
  4. Define some exit point beyond which you do not intend to control.
  5. Define a set of work item types based on the types of work requests
  6. Analyze the demand for each work item type.
  7. Meet with the upstream and downstream stakeholders to agree to WIP limit, regular prioritization meeting, regular fixed date release and a lead-time target for each class of service of work item.
  8. Create a board/card wall to track the value stream you are controlling
  9. Optionally, create an electronic system to track and report the same
  10. Agree with the team to have a standup meeting every day in front of the board;
  11. Educate the team on the new board, WIP limits, and the pull system.
  12. Their process hasn’t changed, other than your asking them to accept a WIP limit and to pull work based on class-of-service policy rather than
  13. receiving it in a push fashion.


Daily Standup Meetings

Reviewing & resolving impediments issues is vital to improving flow through the system.

Synchronizing across Geographic Locations

When the telecommuter completed an item and changed its electronic status, they
would contact their sticky buddy by instant message, email, or phone and ask them to update the physical board.

Release planning

Establishing Service Level Agreements

Customers who pay more or who spend money with the airline on a regular
basis enjoy a better class of service.

Classes of service provide us a convenient way of classifying work to provide acceptable levels of customer satisfaction at an economically optimal cost. By quickly identifying the class of service for an item, we are spared the need to make a detailed estimate or analysis.

Classes of service or work item types

Offering a target lead time coupled with a due-date performance metric is an alternative to treating each item individually and having to estimate and commit to a delivery date for each item.

The service-level agreement allows us to avoid costly activities, such as
estimation; low-trust activities, such as making commitments; and to spread risk by aggregating a large collection of requests and promising only aggregate performance in the form of a percentage due-date performance.

It is important to communicate that the target lead time in the Standard class of service is just that, a target!

The Expedite and Fixed Delivery Date classes of service were ensuring that important items were always on time.

Due Date Performance (percentage) should be monitored for target lead times.

If classes of service are used properly and combined with a regular delivery cadence, very few complaints are likely to be received, even if a significant portion of items miss their target lead time.



Initial Quality

Failure Load, how many work items:

Operations review

Objective, data-driven retrospective on the organization’s performance. Sets an expectation of objective, data-driven, quantitative management

Should be performed monthly at a time boxed meeting.

You will need to allow time to prepare data. Ideally this data would be generated automatically.

Economic model

Waste can be classified into three main abstract categories: transaction costs, coordination costs, and failure load.

To determine if an activity is truly wasteful ask, “Would we do more of this if we could?” If the answer is no, then the activity is some form of waste.

Transaction costs come in two types: setup activities and cleanup, or delivery activities.

Coordination costs are activities that are performed in order to assign people to tasks, schedule events, or coordinate the work of two or more people toward a common outcome.

Failure load

Kanban by David Anderson is available to purchase on his website.

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