Everything around us seems to happen at a certain time. A rhythm that defines the pace and order of activities. It is present in nature. And it is present in organizations of all sizes. Especially those who have a well-aligned system of information flow and feedback loops.

But many organizations often underestimate the importance of feedback loops outside the team-level Kanban. This often leads to teams working in detachment from business priorities. After a while, instead of delivering value at the organizational level, the isolated teams turn into bottlenecks.

One of the best ways to avoid this, and create an uninterrupted information loop, is establishing a Kanban cadence.

What are Kanban Cadences?

A cadence is defined as “a rhythmic sequence”, “the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity”. Similarly, a Kanban Cadence is the rhythm of Kanban meetings. A regularity that fosters bi-directional communication necessary at all organizational levels. The rhythm and regularity of the meetings are especially important for reviewing the high-level service delivery plans and strategies.
If we look at the organization as an organism, and the information flow as the bloodstream that delivers oxygen to each cell, the cadence meetings are the heartbeat that pumps information to and from each organizational structure.

Get to Know the Different Kanban Cadences

The three main functions of the Kanban cadences are:

  • Getting things done
  • Doing the right things
  • Doing things better.

These Kanban meetings enable a two-way flow of information and change. The information flow ensures the information gathered at meetings is delivered from one feedback mechanism to another, and across the organization. While the flow of changes ensures actions and decisions made at one meeting are communicated clearly. And their effects are reviewed, the capability observed and discussed in other meetings.

There are 7 Kanban cadences separated into two groups. Service delivery meetings group and Improvement/evolution meetings group.

Service delivery meetings

Daily Kanban

Frequency: daily
Duration: 15 minutes

The Daily Kanban meeting is similar to the stand-up meetings in Scrum. The Service Delivery Manager facilitates the meeting. Everyone in the team should participate because this 15-minute meeting allows the team to synchronize, observe and track the status of work items.

It observes the flow of work and takes into consideration decisions made at Replenishment and Commitment, Delivery Planning meetings and Strategy Review. During this meeting, the team can present new information and check if they are within WIP limits. It also puts the focus on completing the tasks that are in progress before pulling new ones.

The goal of the meeting is to observe and track the status of work items and observe the flow of work. The team shares the progress to the Delivery Planning meeting and Service Review.

Replenishment and Commitment

Frequency: weekly/as-needed
Duration: 20-30 minutes

Kanban is a pull-system that needs constant input in the queue, and a stocked and prioritized backlog. These actions are performed at the replenishment and commitment meeting. That is why this meeting should include the team, product owners and product development management. And anyone who can assess the technical or dependency risk and advice on scheduling, sequencing or grouping tasks.

This allows for the exchange of the latest project information and market data with everyone. The team shares relevant observations from the Daily Kanban and Service Delivery Review meetings. And also decisions and changes from the Strategy Review meeting.

The goal of this meeting is to make informed decisions, supported by the team and stakeholders. The decisions are shared at the Daily Kanban and enable prioritizing incoming work and keeping a steady flow of work moving through the Kanban board. And also ensures the team can deliver the committed tasks.

Delivery Planning

Frequency: variable – per delivery cadence
Duration: 1-2 hours

As the team moves tasks to the “Done” column, certain tasks go straight to delivery. Other tasks need to be handed off to other teams and departments. The Delivery Planning meeting reviews these finished work items and the tasks are due to be finished.

Service Delivery Manager facilitates the meeting. It includes the team and everyone related to receiving and accepting the delivery. Managers, anyone involved in logistics, and specialist that have the technical knowledge and risk-assessment capabilities.

The Delivery meeting takes into consideration information from Daily Kanban meetings on which items are potentially ready. And any hand-off accounts and risk considerations about the items ready for delivery discussed at the Risk Review.

The goal of this meeting is to ensure a smooth transfer of work in progress, and plan and decide which items to deliver. Decisions from this meeting are shared at Daily Kanban meetings. While issues are discussed at Risk Review.

Portfolio Kanban - Reduce Overburden - Improve Flow

Improvement meetings

Service Delivery Review

Frequency: bi-weekly
Duration: 30 minutes

It doesn’t matter how fast your workflow is, or how efficiently you work if the client is not satisfied with the result. The Service Delivery meeting is comparing customer expectations and the delivered product. It focuses on checking the team’s performance against commitments, quality, lead-time, etc.

Again, the Service Delivery Manager conducts the meeting. It involves the Service Request manager, representatives of the team, customers and other external stakeholders. The transparency and focus on the client’s needs during this meeting are key for building trust with the client. During this meeting, the Service Delivery Manager shares progress and data from Daily Kanban, decisions made at Operations Review, and actions from Risk Review meetings.

This meeting also looks at the team’s capabilities, sets objective customer-focused metrics. Here, the customer and managers aim to balance demand, set reasonable delivery rates and evade unnecessary risks. The decisions and findings are then reported at Operations Review.

Operations Review

Frequency: monthly
Duration: 2 hours

Since no team is an island, the Operations Review meeting takes a holistic overview of all internal teams and systems. The performance of the organization relies on optimizing each team and the organization as a whole system.

The Operations Review includes the Service Delivery and Service Request Managers of each Kanban team, Senior Management, Senior Business Owner or customer representative. It also requires the presence of mid-level and functional managers. During the meeting, the different managers share relevant information. The findings from Service Delivery Reviews for all Kanban teams and systems. The business performance information from Strategy Review. And all ongoing initiatives from Risk Review that concern organization-level changes.

The goal of this meeting is to analyze the efficiency of different teams and the organization as a whole. Then, review the demand and capacity of each Kanban team, focusing on dependencies and their effects. It is also a good time to identify any underused capacity through the organization that can improve lead times. The improvement suggestions, decisions, changes and actions from this meeting are communicated at the Service Delivery Review and Strategy Review meetings. As well as at Risk Review meetings.

Risk review

Frequency: monthly
Duration: 1-2 hours

Every work process is related to specific risks that influence delivery. In Kanban, the goal is to identify risks and bottlenecks before they substantially impact the workflow. Then, take steps to mitigate those risks.

The Risk Review looks at the issues identified at Operations Review and Service Delivery Review. As well as input from Delivery Planning meetings. Again, the Service Delivery Manager facilitates this meeting. In some instances, it can be a Kanban coach. In the meeting should participate everyone who is familiar with the current recent blockers – team members and managers.

The goal of the meeting is to identify problems at all levels of the organization and identify the causes. Then, assess the risk associated with them and find a way to resolve and avoid the same problems in the future. The information from the Risk Review meeting is shared and discussed at Delivery Planning.

Strategy review

Frequency: quarterly
Duration: half-day

The Strategy Review meeting is the highest-level meeting. It is concerned with reviewing and adjusting the overall business strategy based on the feedback from customers and the market changes. It also analyzes organizational capabilities and the main business goals.

A Strategy Review meeting takes the input from the Service Delivery Review and Operations Review meetings, combined with info from the Replenishment meeting. Participants of this meeting are senior executives, Product Owners and senior team members from customer-facing departments. The big-picture strategic goals and directions discussed at this meeting can be used for creating a Kanban roadmap.

The goal of the Strategy Review is to identify potential large-scale problems and find suitable solutions. Also, to course-correct team operations and optimize resource use where necessary. The information and decisions from Strategy Review are key for setting suitable KPIs, and holding successful Operations Review and Service Delivery Review meetings.

Continuous Information Flow – the Key to Organizational Alignment

Kanban practices advocate workflow management, implementation of feedback loops and implementing evolutionary improvements. Looking at all these meetings, you surely ask yourself, “Why so many?”. Well, each of them does exactly that. The specific cadence at which these meetings happen is key to achieving proper organizational alignment, learning, and planning.

To make it easier to introduce cadences, try to connect them to meetings already happening in the organization. You can re-use and adapt some of the existing meetings. Implementing relatively small changes in focus, discussed metrics and people present at the meetings should be enough to start with. Start with what you have, and gradually evolve.

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About the Author: Ivana Sarandeska

Ivana Sarandeska is a digital marketer, creative writer and master procrastinator. An Agile enthusiast and a firm believer that thorough planning is key to good execution and even better improvisation. She has a soft spot for technology, so most of her full-time jobs were in IT companies where she was introduced to Agile and Scrum. After she got her Scrum Basics certification she started actively using these methodologies and their main principles. Learning how to organize her time and tasks better has motivated her to dive deeper into these methodologies. Now, she is an avid advocate of Agile and Scrum and happily shares her knowledge and experience to fellow procrastinators.