Conversation Starter / Conversation Avoider: Element #9 of the Kanban

Jim BensonExpert, Primers1 Comment

“What’s wrong with this picture?”

“What are you going to do to get that completed?”

“Would you like help?”

“Are you blocked?”

“Why did this happen this way?”

“I totally didn’t expect that, did you?”

The kanban is a conversation starter. There are patterns that show up in normal working that create conversations that lead to action.

When we work with others, our primary means of processing is conversation. It is true, we can waste our times with the wrong conversations, with conversations about things we should already know, or with conversations about trivia or politics. But ruling out conversations is simply foolish.

Without a visual control, many of our conversations center around status. “Are you going to meet your deadline?” “What did you do yesterday?” “What are you doing today?” “What have you completed?” “Are you blocked?”

If you have an active kanban, most of these status conversations can be avoided. The board already gives anyone who looks at it that information and more. Anyone who needs it can get pertinent information at a glance.

Beyond that, we have our shared story (element one) which is broadcast by the information radiator (element two) which is impacted by the nature of the game (three) and impacted by real-time events (four) and so on through all the elements we’ve covered this far. With eight elements under our belts, we can see that there is tremendous context displayed on the kanban. That context is informing us, teaching us, and making us question our assumptions.

When that happens, we need some conversations.

Teams we work with are encouraged to have daily meetings called “stand up meetings.” These are 15 minute discussions where everyone stands up. We want the meeting to be somewhat uncomfortable so that it will be short and people can get to work. Before the advent of the kanban, the format was to have everyone ritualistically answer three questions, “What did you do yesterday?” “What are you going to do today?” and “Are you blocked or need help?”

After the kanban, all three questions were redundant – the board already answered them. At that point, the stand up meetings became 15 minute strategy sessions about how to attack the day, parcel out upcoming work, or swarm on a problem. All of these conversations are informed by the kanban – it shows exceptions to daily operations (things out of the ordinary) and that sparks conversations.

This is post #9 in a 13 post series on elements of kanban.

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Jim BensonConversation Starter / Conversation Avoider: Element #9 of the Kanban

One Comment on ““Conversation Starter / Conversation Avoider: Element #9 of the Kanban”

  1. Pingback: 13 Elements Of Kanban – The July Personal Kanban Series | Personal Kanban

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