Archive for the ‘Kanban’ Category

How to create flow.

24 March, 2017

Flow is the new buzz. Each of us knows exactly what flow is. And how it feels. It feels great! You probably have even experienced it yourself. Great!

But flow in relation with work?  That is something else. It needs planning,  and changing work habits.

But we can create flow in our work environment. We are able to let work items or information flow through our work processes. Just look at the car manufactures. Their assembly lines are a perfect example of flow. But it took them many years and hard work.

The good news is that we can also implement flow in creative work places. Whether we create fancy apps or provide services. In HR departments, DevOps teams, back office, marketing teams, they all are able to create flow in their delivery process

Below I explain how you can start to implement flow.

Visualize your system to identify your bottleneck

    1. Identify Bottlenecks/constraints.
      • Draw a value stream map (VSM) to  visualize your system.
      • The VSM creates a common language to engage your stakeholders in your endeavor.
      • The value stream shows you the constraints. Probably you already knew the constrain (or had a good guess). But it is like handling risks, once they have been documented, they become somehow more real. This is also true for constraints.
        • Also good to realize is that you handle constraints with care. Even with more care then porcelain. It involves people. and the tricky thing is that people who are part of the constraint, became the constraint due to the system. Not of what they did or did not do!
  1. Eliminate constraints (not the people!)
    1. Exploit the constraint.
      • Let the constraint only work on the flow-impeding work.
      • Reduce the amount of incoming work using WIP limits to the level that the constraint is able to chew.
    2. Increase the constraint capacity.
    3. Find the next constraint.
  2. Ability to manage stakeholders that impact the constraint.
    1. The demand of work is defined outside your responsibility level. So in order to balance the demand with the available capacity, takes some diplomacy and persistence.
    2. Further downstream stakeholders are in need of your work items. They will claim your capacity is not fully used.
    3. Invite your stakeholders to some flow experience
      • Involving your stakeholders in a short Flow simulation workshop, combined with theoretical explanation on queuing theory may just do the trick to at least allow you to do an experiment with manage the work through WIP limts and other queuing theory techniques. (The Okaloa Flowlab simulations offer a range of different simulations that address all aspects of flow).

Some additional advice.

Start with flow simulations with some key stakeholders. They first need to understand the basic concepts of flow, queuing theory and WIP limits. This also let them experience the impact of WIP limits on the speed and reliability of their delivery requests.

On team level  create a stable input of work. Ensure that the teams grow into a stable delivery cadence. Use the team simulations to allow the team to experiment and experience flow in their own environment. You can use the actual work environment of a sprint to experiment with reducing WIP and allow the team to  become more stable and predictable in their  deliveries.

Next step is to let multiple teams that work to create flow of their combined teams. Run the cross team simulation as a start to have teams and product management experience and experiment addressing aligning capacity differences to a smooth delivery cadence.

Upstream, product management  (program or value stream level) implements a Kanban system that adheres to the same principles of flow as on team level. But here is one additional focus point.

Internal product management use WIP limits to effectively deliver a constant flow of work requests for the downstream teams.

From the perspective of the downstream teams product management takes care they have at all times sufficient work requests (options) available. This ensures that product management is never overstressed in producing sufficient work for the downstream delivery teams (quality, instable workloads up- and downstream). For the downstream  teams this means they have at all times sufficient work on their incoming backlog.  They are able to maintain a stable cadence.

For more information on  simulations  look at the available workshops in Europe on Okaloa. On May 19th we offer a public workshop  on the Okaloa Flowlab simulations in which we  specifically address implementing Flow or Kanban systems in SAFe environments and other scaling approaches.



Predictable & resilient programs

15 November, 2013

Too many efforts get lost in complexity or frustration.

“I wish we had known before, what we know now; we never would have started this project”

“Why don’t they listen to us?” asked the project manager himself about management

Many programs keep their focus regardless changes in the system around them

We live in a world that is dynamic and always in motion. That’s a fact. So, how can we know today, what will be the challenge of tomorrow? The answer is simple: we do not know, unless…

Starting a program is to achieve some goal that was defined yesterday. How do you manage a program that aims to achieve something that may or may not be changed while you do your utmost best to get there? How can you early recognize a changing goal that you targeted?

Organizations need to be able to apply a kind of rocket that is guided to it’s moving target by means of laser. Listen2Change offers this management guidance. We provide the laser beam that the decision maker transfers into an adjusted focus, based on new knowledge of the target and the system.

A program in a system influences the system and is impacted by unpredictable agents in that system and events outside that system.

We visualize the influences and resulting changes on regular basis (daily, weekly, ..). It enables weak signal detection to identify risks or opportunities.

For this we use short anecdotes from all stakeholders in the system. Each anacdote-teller adds predefined ‘tags’ or signifying data to their anecdote. The signification provides navigation through the hundreds of anecdotes. it unleashes understanding detailed changes and impact from the perspective of each participant.

The underlying assumption is that people exchange information via stories. The stories are triggered by open questions and gathered independent from each other.  The complete set of stories provide a true reflection of the  reality. As it is continuous it truly provides your laser beam towards a moving target.

The method provides any program or mission the means to start without a clear understanding of the final result. This result will emerge from the running program and its impact in the system.


Giving customers their legitimate place in software development.

26 August, 2013

Being really lean means that only that functionality customers use (and are willing to pay for) is developed and released. That means being so agile, that trends and patterns in customer needs/wishes and problems are continuously understood and drive service/product development and delivery.

For this the ‘voice of the customer’ needs to be continuously monitored. The result of the listening is to be analyzed and integrated in the development life cycle (e.g. product backlogs).

As not all new functionality or innovations originate from customers, also the ‘voice of the internal-experts needs to be continuously monitored. This knowledge, experiences and ideas is integrated in the development life cycle as well.

In earlier blogs I wrote in Customer Sensor Networks. Being the same subject, it lacks the natural place in the present developments in agile software development methods. By lack of a better word I use in this blog the term CusDevCus which stands for Customer-Development-Customer. With Development I mean the complete development lifecycle including Marketing, Sales, Product Management, Development, Release and Operations, ect. I am open for any better term.

Core elements of CusDevCus are:

  1. Integrated customer feedback (or external expert feedback) into the development life cycle loop to create integrated feedback,. Integrated feedback
    1. is unlimited in size, the larger the amount of participants, the more effective the next release,
    2. gains insight in trends and weak signals for present and future functionality,
    3. is generated in the form of testing developed functionality as well as new (unrelated) ideas.
  2. Integrated employee (as internal experts) feedback with the same aspects explained under the integrated customer feedback and
    1. open to all employees, continuously…
  3. The feedback combines both quantitative and qualitative information.
  4. Each feedback is signified by the feedback provider. This provides navigation through large amount of feedback.
  5. The Product Owner analyses the feedback-patterns. The combined quantitative and qualitative information enables both a deep understanding of the explicit functionality-feedback and the high level patterns.
  6. Because the feedback is integrated in agile development methods (like Scrum, Kanban, OpenUP, ..) experimentation of new functionality is possible in a semi-real environment using real customers.  This seriously reduces R&D and Sales and Marketing effort and optimizes organizational learning.
  7. CusDevCus fully builds on devOps, BusDevOps lean startup and other agile evolutions.
  8. CusDevCus is based on open feedback in the form of narratives. That means there are no preformatted testforms or questionnaires for feedback.
  9. Of course the open format feedback does not eliminate the need for professional testing!

10. CusDevCus focuses on different user groups. Different user groups have different needs. They reveal different uses (or no use) of functionality.

In my view the above described next step in agile (software) development is a natural one. The main question is whether companies are able to make the mental shift to integrate the customer as described in the software development lifecycle.

Customer Sensor Networks

12 March, 2013

Agile software development has 2 major positive attributes: the short release cycle and the possibility to integrate release-feedback rapidly in the product backlog. In this blog Customer Sensor Networks (CSN) are explained as a mechanism to integrate the Agile software development life cycle with customer feedback effectively.

CSN enables insight in what functionally is needed or wanted. To understand customer needs can be a challenge. In many cases customers do not have any idea what is possible in terms of functionality.

What is possible is in the heads of the developers, architects., analysts or product managers. But what is technically possible is not always wanted or needed by the customers.

The short feedback loop with a short time to market, enables product management to ‘test’ how features are accepted by (parts of) the customer-base. Implementing CSN lets the organization understand effort- and cost-effectively what functionality customers are willing to pay for. It is a good idea to involve the marketing strategy in the development life cycle.

Which customers to select is based on their expertise or area of interest. A variety of customer-types increases the variety of feedback. Innovators will appreciate other aspects then customers in the early or late majority groups. Which profiles you select, will be based on the business and business objectives.

Customer Sensor Network

Figure 1: Customer Sensor Network implementation.

The CSN explained here is based on Sense Maker® software of Cognitive Edge.

The CSN uses an online collector website which pre-processed the information for the product owner and the DevOps teams. Pre-processing is done by the CSN and based on the information provided by the customers.

The Feedback analysis consists of functional evaluation and an emotional aspect. The functional aspects cover things like how features are used or what is missing. The emotional aspect lets product owner en DevOps team members understand what (missing) functionality does with customers. The emotional evaluation is important to understand and support marketing aspects of the product.

Techniques like private beta’s or feature flags enable teams to manipulate releases to different test- or customer groups.

Figure 1 also shows typical takt times in a CSN system. Takt time and wait time lets the DevOps team and product owner optimize flow and adjust overall throughput time with the expectations of the different test groups. This example shows a sprint of 3 weeks. The test period is set for 1 week. Then the feedback is evaluated 2 weeks after the DevOps team finished work. Depending on the expectations of the customer test groups, the waiting time for the customer groups to learn what the effect of their testing has been, might be too long.

Using customers in the development life cycle presents some challenges to the organization. Aspects to take into consideration are incentives and how they (in)formally integrate in the communication plans. Incentives may differ per customer type. For example, for innovator’s their name can be listed on the product website as contributors, or they are invited on some regular basis to the development site to discuss with the DevOps teams and product owners. The early and late majority groups can be given a free license of the product.

CSN provides an effective organizational and team learning mechanism. New idea’s can be tested rapidly and (cost-)effectively. CSN triggers a business approach to Agile development. Developers, maintenance people, product management and marketing all learn as a team what it is that makes their customers happy or dissatisfied.

Applying customer sensor networks (CSN) in Lean Startup and DevOps teams

7 March, 2013

The Lean Startup movement addresses the issue to match product functionality to market demand. For this a contextual external customer feedback loop needs to be implemented. A customer sensor network using SenseMaker® provides online, real-time and continuous contextual feedback, closing the feedback loop.

SenseMaker uses an online collector website that lets customers provide feedback by means of narratives. Each narrative gets a title. The customers also provide additional meaning to their narrative. The system categorizes feedback based on the meaning given by the customers. This avoids overhead during analysis for the organization. The SenseMaker analysis software supports the evaluation of the feedback. Enabling effective and short evaluation time. This feedback mechanism enables evaluation of large amounts of feedback from different customer or user groups.

The analysis software provides both quantitative and qualitative evaluation. The quantitative aspects provide insight if functionality acceptance level. The qualitative aspects provide deeper insight in innovation opportunities. For example alternative or unforeseen use of the functionality. On the other side of the same scale, the feedback points to a risk or threat. For example that the new functionality is not well accepted by early innovators.

Customer sensor networks integrate with Lean Startup pilot experiments and DevOps private beta’s. It also provides for DevOps implementation the needed internal and external feedback for development. The internal feedback from operations to development is useful in case when the DevOps consists of multiple team in different locations.

CSN makes it possible that for some types of development, product management joins DevOps teams to form ProDevOps. This really reduces overhead and transition costs. It enables a whole new approach to app development in a true Agile manner.


SenseMaker is a Cognitive Edge product linking micro-narratives with human sense-making to create advanced decision support, research and monitoring capability in both large and small organisations.


Cynefin en Kanban == niet planbaar met optimaal resultaat ==

30 January, 2013

Meer en meer worden Cynefin en Kanban met elkaar in verband gebracht. En dat is niet zo gek. Immers, beiden zijn een manier om naar complexiteit te kijken. In deze blog ga ik in op de gecombineerde kracht van beide. Gecombineerd geven zij een organisatie een niet-planbaar-optimaal resultaat.

De kern van Kanban is het inzicht krijgen in de capaciteit van waarde leveren aan de klant. De hele keten wordt hierbij betrokken. Door de deel-performantie van de verschillende stappen op elkaar af te stemmen, ontstaat een optimale doorstroming op organisatie niveau.

Dit inzicht en manier van werken vormt vervolgens het uitgangspunt voor continue verbeteringen en aanpassingen. Het (gevisualiseerde) inzicht bij alle betrokkenen geeft het continue verbeterproces een natuurlijk karakter.

Cynefin is een model dat 5 probleem domeinen definieert: obvious, gecompliceerd, complex, chaotisch en disorder. Ik verwijs naar voor een meer gedetailleerde uitleg.

Proces verbeterprogramma’s of de implementatie van Lean/Kanban in een organisatie zijn beide typische voorbeelden van complexe problemen. Complex betekent dat er geen directe relatie bestaat tussen oorzaak-gevolg. Het resultaat is niet planbaar en is alleen terugkijkend verklaarbaar. Dit in tegenstelling tot een probleem in een gesloten systeem (gecompliceerd en simpel). Daar zijn oorzaak en gevolg door analyse of categorisering te voorspellen.

De Cynefin aanpak voor complexe problemen is door gebruik van de gecombineerde kennis van experts, inzicht te krijgen in de mogelijke oplosrichtingen. Deze vormen de basis voor de volgende stap. Het starten van safe-fail `(niet fail-safe) probes. Door een continue en real-time feedback loop wordt de impact van elke probe zichtbaar. Succesvolle probes worden versterkt en uitgebreid. De niet succesvolle probes worden gestopt. In een zich ontvouwende werkelijkheid wordt een (niet gepland) optimaal resultaat bereikt.

De gecombineerde kracht zit in de opbouw van kennis over de capaciteit van de organisatie en het begrip van de mate van complexiteit van de taken (zowel in bouw als management). Het leiderschapsteam kan op basis van deze kennis en begrip de organisatie stimuleren tot continu leren en verbeteren. Het vormt de basis voor de strategie en de continue aanscherping van deze strategie.