It seems like new uses for Kanban are cropping up every day. And the interesting thing is that in some cases, several different organizations/people come up with similar ideas spontaneously.
One of those ideas is to use Kanban in order to drive Continuous Improvement efforts.
I’ve recently described such an approach in my presentation for Lean Conference 2010 in Atlanta (#LSSC10), it also came up in other talks and others seem to be having great success using this (E.g. . In Israel I saw it come up in Kanban workshops we hold for clients, as well as some ideas that clients have after they start using Kanban for other things. It w
Think of mgmt teams at the organization level, or for any group (e.g. VP R&D and his staff members, CEO and the other CXOs/VPs, Group leader with his team leads).
We want this team to lead Continuous Improvement initiatives in their organization. Both at the aggregate level collating and coordinating efforts the various teams they’re in charge of, as well as initiatives that originate and are focused at their level.
Who hasn’t seen the lessons learned exercise which was great, but when you come some time later, the action items are at best documented, lets not even talk about tracked and executed.
Same goes for Agile Retrospectives, even though the frequency of the retrospectives improves the situation a bit and nags the team some more…
Enter Kanban. Now, really, you don’t need anything fancy. We mainly are talking about creating a backlog of action items. Prioritizing it. And choosing a FEW action items for execution each time. Until you are finished with those, don’t divert or context switch to any other initiative. This is where the Kanban WIP Limit comes into play…
This of course can be used for ANY kind of action item for the management team.
Again, you don’t have to do it with Kanban. A shared action item list you check items off as you go can work just as well. I used Sharepoint, a whiteboard, and other ways to achieve that. With Kanban you get the added benefit of the WIP limits. From my experience, management teams and other sorts of committees, are quite horrible at focusing and managing their WIP, so Kanban can really help.
In addition, if your organization is currently undergoing a Lean/Agile transition, adopting a Kanban board can help you lead by example and show that you are adopting Lean/Agile methods. It will also help you understand what is happening at the production floor, and adopt the language being used by the organization.
That is why, with our customers over at Agilesparks we are starting to use Kanban boards to drive Agile Transitions, and recommend to the team managing the transition to adopt his board and style for their own use.
Other elements of Lean that can help here are A3 and PDM.
A3 (see http://www.crisp.se/lean/a3-template) is problem-solving tool originating in Toyota. Its beauty is that it drives you to be concise and focused. Each A3 describes a problem and what you are trying to do about it, in essence bodying the PDCA Plan Do Check Act cycle.
PDM – The Hoshin Kanri Policy Deployment Matrix (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoshin_Kanri) is another way to practically use the PDCA cycle. I’ll try to describe it in more depth some other time…
I don’t promise to post here often. With my over-WIP I barely find time to tweet (over at http://twitter.com/yuvalyeret) …
In the meantime – what are YOU thinking of doing with Kanban? let me know…