The book THE CULTURE GAME names 16 patterns of learning and describes a means to socialize them throughout your organization. These are called the Tribal Learning patterns in the book. One of these patterns is [Manage Visually]. The book devotes an entire chapter to this powerful learning device. Kanban is referred to frequently in this chapter.
Kanban is more than a simple manager of visual information. When policies are added to Work Item types via the Class of Service feature, Kanban as described in the book KANBAN by David Anderson becomes a powerful interactive game whose goal is to regulate the flow of work and thereby increase overall throughput. Getting into this in detail is beyond the scope of this post. If you are unfamiliar with Kanban I suggest you buy the Kanban book.
In my book THE CULTURE GAME, I describe interactions, meetings, Scrum, Kanban, and membership in social groups (such as teams) as games. But not the kind of games you may be familiar with. This post summarizes what I mean. The book lays out a framework for “gaming happiness at work” and provides specific steps for doing so. Once again, these topics are beyond the scope of this post. You can learn more about THE CULTURE GAME book here.
This short post looks at Kanban through the lens of the 16 Tribal Learning patterns found in the THE CULTURE GAME book. Exactly how many of the 16 Tribal Learning practices does Kanban implement? The answer may surprise you.
I have identified no fewer than 12 of the 16 Tribal Learning practices implemented directly by Kanban. Not only that, but 3 of the remaining 4 Tribal Learning practices described in THE CULTURE GAME book are indirectly supported by Kanban!
This means Kanban is a very serious device for generating social learning in your organization. It means you have to look at it closely.
Let’s take a look at the rundown:
|Tribal Learning Pattern as Described in THE CULTURE GAME book||How Kanban Implements the Pattern|
|Facilitate Your Meetings||The periodic Operations Review meeting (described on page 159 in the book Kanban by David Anderson) is a facilitated meeting.|
|Examine Your Norms||Kanban looks at how long things normally take, and calls that ‘cycle time’. This is an explicit examination of actual, normal delivery times|
|Be Punctual||Not applicable, although most teams doing good Kanban value the keeping of commitments, for example commitments to deliver, appointments etc.|
|Structure Your Interactions||Kanban structures interactions with upstream and downstream partners through Policies, Classes of Service, Work Item Types. Internally, the team structures the columns and swim-lanes depicted on the Kanban board.|
|Announce Your Intent||Teams using Kanban announce intent via the Cycle time connected to Classes of Service. Cycle time states the amount of time for delivery to the customer.|
|Game Your Meetings||Kanban has a daily meeting where the ‘Kanban’ game is discussed.|
|Conduct Frequent Experiments||Teams using Kanban experiment with adding columns, swim-lanes and new Classes of Service.|
|Manage Visually||Kanban is many things. It is obviously at least a Visual Management tool, and a very sophisticated one at that.|
|Inspect Frequently||Each day the Kanban team meets in front of the Kanban board, discussing the work, and inspecting it visually.|
|Get Coached||Kanban as defined by the book of the same name does not mandate coaching. In practice however, this is often the case. Teams coached in Kanban use may get benefits more immediately. Here is some proof: a rather authoritative blog post from KANBAN author David Anderson on what Kanban coaches do, and do not do.|
|Manage Your Boundaries||Kanban depicts the beginning and the end of the work flow under consideration. Kanban defines and manages input and output boundaries.|
|Socialize Books||Not applicable, although many Kanban implementations use substantial learning library|
|Pay Explicit Attention||This is ‘the name of the game’ in Kanban. Kanban plays a direct role in manifesting a shared mental model of the work, the work flow, and related subjects.|
|Open The Space||The very act of depicting the work flow explicitly in Kanban tends to open the conversational space about what is true, what is false about important, previously un-discussed topic, for example: work-in-process and related limits|
|Be Playful||Every Kanban board is a custom thing that develops over time. Columns, column names, swim lanes, work items types and more are all up for discussion and experimentation.Users can playfully choose certain stickers (insignia) to mean certain things, etc. Kanban is open to playful experimentation.|
Kanban directly implements 12 of the Tribal Learning patterns. As such, Kanban is a serious device for generating Tribal Learning, that is: social, or group learning…or team learning, in your organization.
Kanban is useful for building a shared mental model of the work and work flow. As such, it is serious culture technology and a culture hacking tool for encouraging team learning and innovation in the current culture of your organization.