We’ve covered the basics of getting started with Kanban in Part 1 of the Frequently Asked Questions about Kanban 3-part series. Now, let’s dive in a bit more.

Some of you might be in the process of transitioning to Kanban from a different project management methodology. Others may have knowledge of different methodologies and are wondering if those properties and rules also apply to Kanban. The questions that we’ll be addressing in Part 2 aim to answer specific questions that you will encounter during your implementation of Kanban.

Are there rules when implementing Kanban?

In order to have an effective Kanban system, there are six rules to follow. These rules are based on Kanban’s five core properties.  Knowing these rules before getting started will provide the right mindset from the get-go.

The six rules of an effective Kanban system are:

  • Never pass defective products
  • Take only what’s needed
  • Produce the exact quantity required
  • Level the production
  • Fine-tune the production
  • Stabilize and rationalize the process

Are there specific roles we need to fill to use Kanban?

One of the key principles of Kanban says, “Respect the current process, roles, responsibilities, and titles.” This principle tells us that Kanban doesn’t come with a list of roles or titles to fill. However, after years of use in the workplace, project managers and Kanban practitioners alike have recognized the need to introduce some key roles. These roles are the Service Delivery Manager and the Service Request Manager.

Now, you don’t need to start appointing an SDM and SRM on day one. What I would recommend is you start with whatever roles you currently have and then establish new ones as you see the need and benefit later on. You may also realize that you have current roles that are similar to an SDM and SRM or that your current roles can evolve to these two.

What meetings do we have to observe when doing Kanban?

If you read more about how Kanban started, you would know that Kanban is not prescriptive like other project management methodologies. Observance of the core properties and principles was the main driving force of Kanban. However, it’s evolution through the years have seen the introduction and use of not only roles, as we’ve discussed prior, but meetings as well.

These meetings are called Kanban cadences. They are designed to strengthen the feedback loops within teams and organizations and amplify their Kanban experience. There are seven Kanban cadences:

  • Daily Kanban
  • Replenishment and Commitment
  • Delivery Planning
  • Service Delivery Review
  • Operations Review
  • Risk Review
  • Strategy Review

When you’re just getting started with Kanban, I suggest that you don’t go full-on with implementing the seven cadences. Try to examine if you have current meetings that resemble them and go with those first. You might be surprised that you’re actually practicing them already or you just need to elevate them to become one of the Kanban cadences.

Portfolio Kanban - Reduce Overburden - Improve Flow

Do I need to prioritize my backlog?

Your backlog contains the work that’s ahead of your team. Imagine if your task cards do not reflect the current needs of the business, you would be doing work that doesn’t give the best value for your company. It’s very important to keep your backlog up to date. There may be tasks that are no longer relevant or obsolete. There could be tasks that you can merge or break down further. You could be missing some new tasks due to changes in requirements or market feedback.

Prioritization usually happens during Replenishment and Commitment meetings. Any incoming work should be prioritized before adding them to the backlog. You can also explore using Kanban Classes of Service to prioritize your tasks.

But what happens if I need to change the priority or add a new task?

One of the many benefits of Kanban is its flexibility. Unlike other project management methodologies where task execution is fixed per iteration, prioritization in Kanban is an ongoing activity. You can add and reorder tasks at any time.

How do I measure progress with Kanban?

With Kanban being a visual project management tool, it’s easy to see progress at a glance. Immediately from your Kanban board, you can clearly see how many tasks have already been done. This is called throughput. You can measure your throughput within a given period of time to track how your team performs.

Another good measure of progress and performance is your team’s responsiveness or speed of delivery. This is represented by your Lead Time and Cycle Time. Lead Time is the time it takes from when the customer’s request is created until it’s delivered. Cycle Time is the time it takes for the team to work on the product until it’s done.

These Kanban metrics are good indications of a team’s performance. Teams should measure them regularly and use them as a guide for improvement initiatives.

With a little more insight on its implementation, I hope your team is more prepared to get started with Kanban. If you’re coming from another methodology like Scrum or if you’re curious how Kanban fits in the world of Agile, read part three of our Kanban Frequently Asked Questions series.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.