Kanban feedback loops support each other

Support

There are 3 key feedback loops in Kanban – the board, the cadences and the data. Each of these feedback loops play their part in enabling and improving flow. What you might not have noticed right away is that these three feedback loops support each other and without one of these, or with a lower maturity version of each, you’re likely not getting the most out of your kanban system. The following outlines how each of these support and effect each other and how you can use and improve them to enable better outcomes.

Here’s an overview of how the 3 relate to each other:

Boards and Cadences

These two really support each other. For example, during the Kanban meeting we often walk the board and in the process of doing so we may make some updates to items. This is also the case with the Replenishment meeting – you’re moving items over the commit point as a part of this. In that way, the cadences are supporting the boards in terms of keeping them up to date and relevant. Imagine if you didn’t have a daily kanban meeting – how likely is your board to fall behind or even into disuse? Additionally, the boards are supporting the cadences because imagine having these meetings without the boards – you wouldn’t have all the latest information at hand to make those decisions.

In terms of the improvement cadences, often things like the service delivery review will look at the board and how it’s designed. You might even do a small STATIK increment and redesign the board with a new work item type or class of service that you’ve discovered. Thus the improvement cadences are keeping the structure of the board(s) up to date as well.

Boards and Data

This is relatively simple – essentially the data that we have from kanban systems is derived from the board(s). We capture data about the flow, blockages, work types, classes of service and any other data points that you may think relevant. For physical boards this data capture is often manual – you might at the end of the week round up all of the things that have been unblocked and record the details of the blockages for a subsequent blocker clustering activity. Alternatively, you might capture lead time data at the end of the week or even daily.

For electronic systems, these are often built into the kanban tool itself. Purpose built kanban tools such as Kanbanize and SwiftKanban have these built in from the beginning. If you’re using something else such as Jira or Azure DevOps, you might want to consider something like Nave (pictured above) to get the metrics directly from your board.

Data and Cadences

The data really does help to support the cadences – particularly the improvement cadences. You really can’t do the Service Delivery Review effectively without data – it’s a key part to look at things like lead times to see if your service is truly fit for purpose and if not, what actions should you take. Furthermore, after taking actions, you’ll go back to the data points to check in to see if the experiment you tried worked, if you need to rollforward/backwards or try something else entirely.

Using data is also useful in the delivery meetings as well. For example, if you know which work items have aged to an extent that puts their lead times at risk, you might want to focus on those and have others in the team help out to get them done.

Conclusion

The kanban feedback loops work together and help support each other. You’ll find that as you refine one, you all add to the maturity of others. For example, modifying the board will lead to new data which you’ll then review in you cadences. All of these serve to continually enable the delivery of and improvement of the services that you offer your customers. How are your feedback loops servicing your customers? If you want to learn more about feedback loops, please come along to my Kanban Systems Improvement course.

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