What is missing from Kanban

I recently noticed something that I had never thought of before – something is missing from Kanban. At first, I was troubled by this, but when I thought about it I concluded that it was actually a good thing. So many methods or frameworks try to cram in as much as possible, but it’s nice to have something that is missing things intentionally – it’s part of the design.

I was recently doing some “hackathons” for a client whereby individuals from across the organisation were coming together for a short lived activity who don’t normally have contact with one another. This kind of activity can be useful as it made me think of the Social Network Stimulation technique from the Cynefin Co set of methods that’s used for creating new connections in the organisational network. As part of this, we did some team building activities to ensure everyone got to know each other and were comfortable to start to work together.

This is when I realised, I haven’t done this kind of thing for quite some time – team building activities that is. With the Kanban Method, we “Start with where you are now” so we don’t need to do team building activities. Essentially, there’s already teams or groups of people already working together in some way – it may not be optimal, but there is a basic relationship / network there to start with. It was at this point I noticed that Kanban is missing specific activities around team building.

Then I thought about why I hadn’t noticed it was missing. Essentially, with the Kanban Method we start to apply STATIK to an existing context. We talk to people about how they can better setup their system of work for better outcomes. It brings together groups to focus on “getting things done” rather than starting new things all the time. It relieves team members from overburden and allows managers to better run the system of work.

A side effect from this is that you get an enhanced level of collaboration, teamwork and alignment. The result of which builds better teams and groups. Without doing team building activities, we’re actually enhancing teamwork and the outcomes from their effort.

Applying Kanban in the original example I gave isn’t possible – it isn’t a case of “start from where you are” because the group had never worked together. Thus, there is a place for these team building activities in these contexts because you can’t actually apply the Kanban Method. I notice that so many organisations use team building activities because they’re not creating a system of work per se, but constantly forming / reforming groups around work.

So, after some consideration when applying Kanban, you don’t really need to think about running “team building activities” because the act of STATIK does that for you. In the rare case that you’re bringing people together for the first time it can be useful. I’m pleased that Kanban omitted this and I hope you find other things that are intentionally not part of the Kanban Method.

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