One of interesting bit of work that is happening in Lean Kanban community is Hakan Forss’ idea of Kanban Kata. Kanban Kata is an attempt to translate ideas of Toyota Kata to Kanban land.
A simplified teaser of Kanban Kata is that we set a general goal, a kind of perfect situation we unlikely ever reach. Then we set short term, well-defined, achievable step that brings us closer toward the goal. Finally, we deliberately work to make the step, verify how it went and decide on another step. Learn more about Kanan Kata from Hakan’s blog.
Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about the approach. One thing that seemed very artificial for me was the advice how we should define short term steps that lead us toward the ultimate goal. “Improve lead time by 10% in a month.” What kind of goal is that? Why 10%? Why in a month? How should we feel if we manage to improve it only by 8%? Should we cease to continue improvements when reaching the goal after a week?
I know that these questions assume treating the goal literally and not very much common sense but you get what you measure. If you set such measurements, expect that people would behave in a specific way.
I think the missing bit for me was applying some sort of relativity to Kanban Kata. Something that would address my aversion to orthodoxy. Something that would make the application context broader. I found the missing link in David Anderson’s keynote at London Lean Kanban Day.
Interestingly enough, the missing link is my own work on maturity of Kanban implementations. Yes, it seems I need David to point me usefulness of stuff that I did.
The context of my work on depth of Kanban implementation is that instead of trying to use sort of a general benchmark I simply used “where we would like to be” as a reference point to judge where we are right now. In short: I’m not going to try to compare any of my teams to, e.g. David Anderson’s team at Corbis. Instead I want any team to understand where their own gaps are and work toward closing them.
Such an approach perfectly suits setting the goal of Kanban Kata, doesn’t it?
I mean, instead of having this artificial measure of improvements we have internally set end state which is resultant of opinions of all the team members. On one hand this approach let us avoid absolute assessments, which rarely, if ever, help as they ignore the context. On the other it helps to set meaningful goals for Kanban Kata-like improvements.
Relativity requires a team to understand the method they are trying to apply, but I would argue that if the team doesn’t understand their tools they’re doomed anyway.