Why does Kanban work better for teams using Kanplexity than traditional project management software?
Kanplexity is an alternative approach to project management and product development, developed by John Coleman to help teams increase their business and organizational agility.
Kanplexity consists of Kanban – an agile framework to make work visible and navigate flow – and Cynefin – a framework for navigating complexity – to help leaders make decisions about where best to direct their efforts and resources.
It supports and promotes Agile leadership in complex environments.
Kanban in Kanplexity
The Kanban element of Kanplexity is a strategy to optimize the flow of value to customers through a visual framework that allows teams to pull work rather than have work pushed onto them.
Productivity versus Effectiveness
Productivity is about pushing as much work through the system as you can. Keeping people busy.
That isn’t the goal of Agile. We are instead trying to make people as effective as possible, and focus their attention on creating the most valuable product or solution, at the most valuable time, in a way that aligns with organizational and customer objectives.
Kanban is a visual system for optimizing the creation and delivery of value.
The visual element allows us to visualize the flow of work and identify whether there are any problems or bottlenecks in the workflow. What can we observe through the framework and how can we improve or optimize the flow of work.
Pulling work versus work being imposed on teams.
The pull-based system is the complete antithesis of pushing work onto teams.
In a traditional environment, work is simply pushed onto the team without any thought of how that aligns with customer or organizational objectives. Sometimes it’s an overenthusiastic project manager and at other times, it may be a political push by an executive with their own agenda.
Either way, the more this happens, the more the team are overburdened and focused on pushing things out the door rather than creating value. With that many plates spinning in precarious places, we are bound to see plates fall and things break. Often at the most inconvenient time.
In a pull-based system, the team are selecting the most valuable items from a backlog of items that have been created in collaboration with customers and product stakeholders.
As they become available, they examine the backlog and select the item they are capable of starting and finishing at that moment in time. Some items may have dependencies or blockers on them, which means that they can’t be brought into the workflow at this time.
Reduce Cycle Times
80% of the time, the reason for delays in a product development environment is waiting time. In a complex environment that increases to 95% of the time.
So, when people force work onto the team in a push manner, and continue to do that on multiple items of work, it pushes up the waiting time even more. It decreases productivity, rather than increasing it, and it prevents the team from being effective.
In a pull-based system, the team can be incredibly effective because they have knowledge of what is doable right now, and they have the skillset necessary to complete that work relatively quickly. It increases their effectiveness, and by default, their productivity too because they can pull more work through the system and deliver items to customers for review.
Project Management is often about resource utilization and keeping people as busy as possible.
Sure, there is a strong focus on business case at the start of the project but that focus shifts to whether people are busy and hitting the Gantt chart milestones. A project manager actively DRIVES output and tries to optimize for efficiency rather than effectiveness.
Kanban, by contrast, is optimizing for flow efficiency. How effectively and efficiently work flows through the system from the point of conception to the delivery of value to a customer.
An example of this would be a pair of people working on a particular work item that they have drawn from the system.
In the world of project management, this would be inefficient because you want each person working to capacity on their own work items. In Kanban, we recognise that this team working on the item is more effective because of cross-functional skills and capabilities, and by swarming on the problem, we get a lot more work done than we would have independently.
The business case for Kanban
In traditional project management, the project manager decides who does the work based on their level of skill and experience. In Kanban, the experts who are doing the work decide what work should be pulled into the system based on their skills, capabilities, knowledge, and experience.
It isn’t too hard to see that the latter is the better option.
Who better to decide than the people who have the skills, knowledge, and experience to do the work.
So, if you want to see a greater amount of work being done, I highly recommend Kanban.
I’ve witnessed cycle times drop to a third, sometimes even a quarter, of what they were prior to the implementation of Kanban. I’ve witnessed throughput more than double, with the same teams, prior to the use of Kanban.
It is a proven system that has delivered in some of the most battle-hardened applications on Earth.
Another big difference between Kanban and traditional project management is that the work items tend to be smaller. Each small item of work is still valuable and aligns with a specific purpose, but we don’t bring elephants into the room.
Complexity grows with the increased size of a work item, so your goal in Kanban is to break that epic of work down into it’s simplest, most valuable form so that a working item can be delivered to a customer as effectively and efficiently as possible.
We don’t want people grappling with significant challenges when it comes to a work item, we want them to select an item and have everything they need to start and finish that work item within a reasonable amount of time.
Reducing switching costs.
Traditional project managers tend to plan around big chunks of work, often work that takes months to complete, and so even if something came in that was urgent, it would take months before the team could address that disruption or requirement.
In Kanban, the work item may take 12 days or less to complete, and so we are able to respond quickly and effectively to change because the system is not jam-packed with items over the next year.
It allows us to reduce the cost of switching significantly, and opens the door to being responsive and adaptive, despite having a continuous flow of work through the system.
Summary of Kanban
Kanban allows us to:
- Improve Flow
- Reduce Cycle Time
- Respond to change quickly and cheaply.
About John Coleman
John Coleman has deep experience and expertise working with executives, #leadership teams and product development teams to achieve increased #organizationalagility and create environments where creativity and collaboration produce high-performance teams.
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