Before we get started, let’s align on what we mean by the Team Kanban meeting.

The purpose of the Kanban meeting is to form a collaborative conversation about the work, any issues in the workflow and any general issues that come up. We then aim to define the actions to resolve. Generally this session is facilitated by a team lead, scrum master or delivery manager (Enter what you call them here!) But there is no reason why this session cannot be faciltated by anyone, as long as they are comfortable to do so.

At this level, the 15-20 minute session is something that is held daily at the same time and around a fully updated Kanban board with the team.

Now typically at this point I see teams do various styles of good and bad. There is nothing worse than hearing someone telling us what they did yesterday. Even the Scrum guide has got rid of that question!

It is important to remember one of our principles at this point.

We are interested in the status of the work and not the workload of individual people.

So I wanted to give you 5 patterns to try with your team to help keep it fresh and to solve different problems or challenges you might have.

Pattern 1 – Full Board Walk

You will likely be familiar with this pattern, but the purpose here is to talk about every single ticket on your board. The key things to remember are:

  • We walk the board from right to left. We do this because the work on the right is nearly done and we want to be able to release the value from that.
  • Each ticket is then discussed and the status is given. Note, that we focus on the tickets on the board and not ask each member of the group individually.
  • Team members should raise any issues, worries or potential risks to the work. If this can be discussed in the timebox, then great, if not then we might need to get people together afterwards.
  • Team members might also flag if they are going to be pulling more work soon and this is a great opportunity to discuss whether anyone needs any help first.
  • We will flag during this session any expedited or fixed date tickets that are coming in close proximity, because we might need to take some action upon that.

By the end of the session everyone will have a clear understanding of where we are on the work, what needs our focus or mitigating actions completed.

Pattern 2 – Item Age

One of my favourite reports is the Item Age report. This chart tells you how long work has been in play for, the ones that are about to exceed your service level agreement, and the ones that have well and truly passed it! As we settle into our kanban routine, understanding our lead times and service level agreements with our customers come more into play. We also want a level of predictability for our customers, and so having ageing work is going to impact your forecasts.

Before the Team Kanban meeting, I do some high level analysis of the tickets in play. I would then mark in the system the ones that have breached our service level agreement, and the ones that are in proximity.

I would then use the Daily Kanban meeting to highlight these with the team to understand the root cause and what we need to do to get these back on track. I would also want to discuss these at the retrospective because maybe there is something we can do to stop this from happening again in the future.

I trust the team will raise any other issues they might have that we need to discuss, otherwise, I would just get them to focus on this pattern and the resolutions we need to put in place.

Pattern 3 – Blockers, Waiting and On Hold

If you are a team that has a lot of these, maybe we need to have a regular conversation around about them. Similar to Item age, I could understand how long they have been blocked and starting with the oldest ones work backwards to understand what we need to do to get these out of the system.

You can use a technique called blocker clustering in a retrospective to really understand what you are seeing, how long it is costing you and what area to target first for improvements.

The name of the game is to have as minimal blocked, waiting or on-hold tickets as possible. These blocked tickets hurt us and so we will need to put process improvement in place.

For example

  • If we have lots of tickets missing information. Consider improving your ticket refinement or putting a triage in place.
  • If you are stuck waiting on third parties or other teams. Consider on alignment of priorities, how can we plan better together, how can we keep better informed and whether we need to understand their capability to only send them the work they know they can do. This might mean we change the order of our backlog based on this. There is no point starting work if you know it is going to get stuck.
  • If we are blocked on defects. Consider what we can do to improve our quality.

So, if you have lots of blocked, on hold or waiting pieces of work maybe you need to have this pattern to discuss and also implement some targeted sessions to understand how you can mitigate against them.

Pattern 4 – Third Parties or Other Teams Involved

Often teams have to collaborate with third parties or other teams to be able to complete their work. Ideally, you will make their work visible on your board or maybe you have a coordination-style board to help bring everything together. Ultimately you have to work together to deliver the ‘Thing’.

If you are working with just 1 or 2 extra people, the ideal would be to get them to attend your Daily Kanban Meeting. If this is not possible then you might consider a weekly version of this which focuses on maximising the relationship and the shared work we are doing.

Where multiple teams and many people are collaborating together you might consider implementing the Workflow Kanban Meeting. This session is typically held once a week ( can be every 2 weeks) and all teams are invited along to hear the conversation. So depending on the number of teams, you could have between 4-50 people in attendance. This session is facilitated by one person where they walkthrough a coordination board which brings everyone’s work together. Updates are solicited from the team and only one person will give that update. Everyone else is just listening. Now I know what you are thinking…jeeez this is an expensive meeting! But for me, the pattern of scrum of scrums never got implemented properly and no one ever brought any information back to the teams. So the idea here is, the cost of everyone coming together to hear, is cheaper than the cost of identifying a problem late in the day. This session is still 15-20 mins long and thinking about it, if you swapped out a Team Kanban with one of the Workflow Kanban meetings, the cost is the same. The value here is everyone then leaves this meeting with the same knowledge and understanding.

Pattern 5 – Delivery Planning Cadence

This cadence is actually its own thing, but I often choose to switch out a Daily Team Kanban with this session. I have actually already written a blog about this cadence and so I refer you to that for full details on how to do. You can find it here.

Conclusion

There are five patterns here and there are 5 days of the week. By covering these 5 patterns each day of the week you are hitting several key activities to ensure that your board keeps flowing and are on top of things.

When I started implementing these, I noticed that each day I found out something new about the same problem, but just hadn’t been brought up before. It is crazy and I wonder why my usual Kanban meeting didn’t highlight these things. But putting a different lens on this really helped those conversations. It also kept it fresh and people on their toes. We don’t want people to be robots in these sessions, we need good healthy team debates about how are we going to get work done.

So what patterns can you start using in your team tomorrow? Not currently a Kanban team? No worries, these patterns can be used in Scrum as well.

If you have anymore patterns, let me know!

Want to learn more about Kanban? Join me in one of my upcoming classes