Team Kanban, formerly referred to as a form of “proto-kanban”, describes a level of organizational maturity. The Kanban Maturity Model (KMM) calls this level of organizational maturity “Emerging”. That is, it is emerging from people management or team-focus towards process and service-delivery improvement focus. In other words, Team Kanban has a focus on the local optimization of organizational units such as teams. Before addressing the specific patterns observed in organizations with such a focus, we consider the Kanban Maturity Model as a whole to provide context.
The KMM recognizes 7 levels of organizational maturity:
0 – Oblivous
1 – Team-Focused
2 – Customer-Driven
3 – Fit-for-Purpose
4 – Risk Hedged
5- Market Leader
6 – Built for Survival
The crystallization of the model and these levels emerged organically from the observance of Kanban implementations around the world for over a decade.
There is no judgement of inherent value behind the naming of such levels. What we observe, however, is that the Kanban method serves as a stimulant for evolution from lower to higher levels of maturity.
Kanban as an evolutionary stimulant is effective when specific practices are introduced that are appropriate for stimulation of evolution from one level of maturity to the next. As such, those employing the KMM for such purposes are also capable of rational appraisal of the current maturity level of an organization. Furthermore, observable patterns and behaviours have been codified in the KMM to assist the appraiser with identifying the current maturity level through the observance of core practices as well as a set of appropriate transitional practices, options from which to select and propose to an organization that aspires to evolve to the next level of maturity.
Team Kanban – Emerging
Kanban maturity at the team level of scale tends to possess the following observable attributes:
The organization has a fragile relationship with risk because there is little or no consistent process at levels of scale beyond teams. In other words, teams are doing their best to manage their own work, yet the interdependencies between teams are not managed and this translates into dissatisfaction with the process of delivering services to customers. Simply put, teams have their own processes but there is chaos at higher levels of scale, that is, at the levels of service delivery, strategy, etc.
The good news about team level Kanban is that it can be leveraged as a transitional state between L1 (Team-Focused) and L2 (Customer-Driven). As mentioned above, each level has a set of core practices. That is, such practices as can be observed in a stable state. As well there are transitional practices. That is, such practices as may be appropriate to introduce in order to stimulate evolution towards the next maturity level. However, even the core practices are not static and should not be reduced to a mere checklist.
Core Team Kanban Practices
The core practices that tend to be observable in L1 – Team-Focused, are the following:
V1.2 Visualization of the work carried out by a team by means of a team kanban board [“Next”, “To Do”, “Doing”, “Done”];
V1.3 Use of avatars [on the team board] to visualize workload of each individual team member;
V1.4 Visualization initial policies [ie pull-readiness criteria between stages of the workflow, Work-In-Progress limits];
V1.5 Visualization of teamwork by means of an emergent workflow kanban board [“Doing” activities further elaborated]
Limit Work In Progress (WIP):
W1.2 Team WIP limits [visualized on the team board]
Make Policies Explicit:
P1.1 Definition [and transparency] of initial policies.
FL1.1 The team conducts the daily Kanban meeting.
The espoused and observable values of the organization are centred around collaboration and transparency. In other words, the messages of leadership are something like “We want people to work together and we want to know how they are doing.”
Correspondingly, all of the core practices of KMM L1 are part of the curriculum of LeanKanban University’s (LKU) Team Kanban Practitioner (TKP) course. LKU is also very transparent about this deliberate limitation of the TKP. Another example of training that addresses this level (though not explicitly and perhaps not knowingly) is the Professional Scrum with Kanban (PSK) course offered by Scrum.org.
Beyond Team Kanban
The transitional practices that help organizations evolve from L1 to L2 and the core practices of L2 are taught in LKU’s Kanban Management Professional courses (KMPI & KMPII). These practices enable organizations to begin to develop a service orientation, a consistent delivery process and the management of end to end flow of customer-value delivery. Organizations that have fine-tuned such practices and are beginning to scale them out to multiple interdependent services can now be said to be transitioning to L3 (Managed). L3 organizations achieve consistent and predictable outcomes of service delivery and they are meeting the expectations of their customers.
In other words, the services of such organizations are fit-for-purpose and these organizations are resilient (no longer fragile) to market disruptions.