Kanban is for Ninjas

Several times, we’ve run into teams that are working off a Kanban board but are not productive. This experience has illustrated that in 95% of cases, Kanban is too undisciplined for an inexperienced team.

The term inexperienced team may sound like an insult to the team’s cumulative skill set; however, we’re talking about the team’s experience with each other more than any single contributor’s abilities.

For Kanban to work, the team members must be capable of aggressively clearing the value pipeline on a regular basis. If any item on a kanban board is remaining in place for over a business day, extreme measures should be taken to ensure that the team is still on track and capable of delivering.

Kanban reduces Scrum Discipline to an illusion. Humans are not good at performing one task at a single time, and although our computers allow us to attempt to do so, this is the ill-fated decision for any human to fall trap.

The singular act of focusing on the performance of one task is the state of flow. Kanban is reserved for teams that have proven they can stay on target together as a group, self-policing each other along the way.

Advantages to kanban on its face appear to be the relative lack of management necessitated for it to promulgate. Disadvantages include:
– The improper illusion that planning is irrelevant
– Incorrect sizing of work items
– The tendency for the team to take on well beyond what is possible
– Merge conflicts
– Inability to ship tasks to production
– Creation of work silos
– Excessive use of direct messaging
– Other symptoms as yet determined by the Sturgeon General.

The state of Flow.

For a team to progress to a sufficient capability to use Kanban, they must first prove they possess the skills as a group to run a scrum board effectively. The team must be capable of performing without a scrum coach, they must be disciplined enough to keep each other in line, under the gun, to Always Be Delivering Value

Don’t think you’re a ninja

Communication is critical, and remember you’re not infallible. Just because you know the ways of the warrior does not prove that the team around you does. You must show you are ready to graduate to kanban. You must determine that you are all capable of policing each other with the calm of a stormtrooper persuaded by the light side.

Then will you be ready to operate without the much-needed training wheels of Scrum. It’s not your ability, but the cumulative operational fitness as a unit that dictates if you are ready to take your discipline into your own hands.


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