Team Primer in Lean and Kanban (2 day)

Beginning with Japanese manufacturing in the 1950s, Lean thinking has revolutionised production management across the globe, resulting in now common phrases like Just-In-Time, Zero Defects and Continuous Improvement. Focused on harnessing the ability of workers to continuously and incrementally improve quality, productivity and flexibility while eliminating waste, Lean concepts were first widely applied by Toyota and other Japanese auto-companies. This led to the near collapse of western car makers in the 1980s and 90s.

While Lean concepts have now been successfully incorporated in western manufacturing and operations, their application to software development has mainly been through timebox based methods such as Scrum and XP, collectively known as Agile. Software development is an inherently very different activity than repeatable manufacturing operations – the level of uncertainty and random variation is much higher since we never built the same thing twice. Every piece of software we create is different from any we have created before, unlike manufacturing and services where we strive to eliminate variability with tools like Lean Six Sigma. So how we apply Lean thinking to this realm is necessarily different from production environments.

Following on from the success of time boxed agile frameworks, flow based methods such as Kanban have been successfully introduced where agile proved problematic. Scrum can struggle where there is enterprise level scale, unpredictable work arrival and processing times, a lack of cross functional teams or day to day re-planning. Kanban can provide a mechanism to implement ‘pull’ and achieve a flow of work through simple Work In Process (WIP) and kanban signaling systems. As well as coordinating activities across the value stream, Kanban creates an environment to drive continuous improvement, highlighting impediments to flow and encouraging collaboration to resolve issues. In the words of David Anderson, the creator of Kanban, ‘Lean is a destination; Kanban is a means to get there’.

In this 2 day course, we delve into why Kanban works so well both as a change management and project management approach. We look at the benefits of Kanban compared to plan-driven approaches, particularly in complex projects with a lot of churn. We examine some of the theoretical foundations for empirical control methods, and the economic realities of software development that make Kanban so compelling.

This is followed by a deep dive of Kanban practices and tools, including Value Stream Mapping, Visualization of Work Flow, Metrics (Lead Time & CFD), Limiting WIP, Managing Flow and Attaining Pull, Work Item Types, Classes of Service, Explicit Policies and Feedback Loops.  We explore what Kanban means for the evolution of organizational structure, roles and responsibilities, and working with stakeholders.  The course will include exercises to illustrate important concepts and a comprehensive Kanban simulation game to allow attendees experience concepts such as pull and flow first hand.




Who Should Attend

This course is intended for Transformation Agents, Agile and Lean Champions, Project Managers, Developers, Testers, Analysts and any other roles contributing to software development and IT.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course you will understand:

  • The key Lean values and principles, and how they apply to software development
  • The differences and similarities between agile methods, lean methods and Kanban
  • The key scientific fundamentals underlying lean and Kanban, such as queuing, systems and constraint theories
  • How kanban facilitates low-risk, low disruption evolutionary change in complex IT environments
  • How kanban facilitates a pull based flow of value
  • Increasing the transparency of software development using visual kanban boards and metrics
  • Mapping your Value Stream and exposing bottlenecks
  • Continuously optimising and relieving bottlenecks and blockages
  • The work capacity of your development team and how to balance throughput to that capacity
  • Establishing Work In Progress Limits
  • Facilitating innovation using Kanban
  • Establishing Classes of Service, Work Item Types and Service Level Agreements
  • How to work with input and output cadences
  • How to manage variability in work flow
  • When to use Kanban


Topics Covered in the Course

  1. Introduction
    • Introduction to Agile & Lean
      • Principles of Agile and Lean Software Development
      • What is Kanban?
      • Benefits of Agile and Lean Development
    • When to Use Kanban – SW Development; IT Operations
    • Key Concepts in Kanban – Cost of Delay, Theory of Constraints
    • Kanban Core Practices
    • What is a kanban system? Example
  2. The Economics of Software Development
    • Understanding Project Economics
    • Economies of Speed
  3. Value Stream Mapping and Tracking
    • Demand Analysis – Defining customer-valued work items (deliverables)
      • What are the types of work you do?
      • What are the patterns of demand for your team’s time?
    • Value-stream mapping and creating a Kanban board
  4. Radical Transparency
    • Kanban Boards (manual and electronic)
    • The Mechanics of a Kanban Board
  5. Classes of Service
    • Cost of Delay
    • Treatment Policies
    • Service Level Agreements
    • Allocating Capacity to Classes of Service
  6. Explicit Policies
  7. Planning in Kanban
    • Evidence Based Planning
    • Incremental Delivery – Prioritisation for Early Value
    • Input (Prioritization) and Output (Release) Cadences
  8. Working with Kanban
    • Daily StandUps, Backlog Refinement, Reviews
  9. Continuous Improvement
    • Identifying bottlenecks: Capacity constrained and Non-instant availability resources
    • Improving throughput through Theory of Constraints
  10. Work In Progress
    • Time is Money – the Costs of Queues
    • Cycle Time vs. Utilisation, Productivity & Efficiency
    • Setting WIP limits for smooth flow and short cycle time
  11. Metrics and Reporting
    • WIP – Cumulative Flow Diagrams and Littles Law
    • Process Control Charts, Lead Time Spectral Analysis
    • Open Issues and Blocked Work Items
  12. A Kanban Simulation (3 hours)
    • Simulation Briefing
    • Gameplay – Each Team uses WIP Limits, Explicit Policies, Work Prioritisation, Classes of Service, Metrics and other Kanban practices to optimise the work flow through their Kanban system.
    • Simulation De-Brief – What did we learn?

4 Responses to Team Primer in Lean and Kanban (2 day)

  1. Martin Burke says:

    Can you confirm if a) there are places and b) the location of the 04/03 Kanban course?


  2. coheocha says:

    Hi Martin,
    Yes there are places – in fact, I don’t have sufficient numbers registered to guarantee this course will run. If it does run, it will be in Dublin – probably Ballsbridge area.
    If you are considering more than one person let me know. I’ll put you on the list and get in touch closer the date when I know more about probable no of attendees.
    Many thanks for your enquiry.


  3. Martin Burke says:

    Thanks Colm,

    seeing the 04/03 is next tue and numbers are low I guess I’m expecting a defferal…but I would be delighted if you surprised me. please do ! #optomist #opportunist


  4. Karolina says:

    Will this training happen again this year?

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