Unlocking Kanban: My KSD Course Experience

I’m not one for collecting certifications for the sake of having them on my résumé, but I have received some feedback about my LinkedIn profile that suggest I need to make my experience stand out more. As part of updating my work experience (still a work in progress!) I began thinking about coaching-related courses as a way to refresh and extend my knowledge… and as if by magic, a friend messaged me about some courses he had coming up. TLDR: I really enjoyed it and thoroughly recommend both Evolutionize and the KSD course in particular.

Kanban is one of those things where many people think they know a lot more about it than they really do; personally I have read books, watched videos, engaged in online forums, practiced Personal Kanban, attended introductory sessions, worked with teams who have been coached in Kanban, and even had the opportunity to observe experienced Kanban coaches, I still felt there were gaps in my knowledge. So when I saw that Jerry’s upcoming courses included Kanban System Design, I signed up immediately. KSD (previously known as Kanban Management Professional Part 1, KMP1) is focused on learning how to design predictable work management systems for teams and initiatives. Jerry’s company (evolutionize.ca) run introductory and more advanced Kanban courses (as well as other topics) but KSD seems to be a good point for me to jump in… and it was only a couple of weeks away.

It was a small class, and the initial self-assessment showed a range of Kanban experience from “informed” (e.g. been to a conference, watched some videos) through practicing (implemented a Kanban board with a team), to “master” – I rated myself as practicing because I’ve been through the initial steps with a few teams but only a couple of time have I had the chance to go further. Jerry used this quick exercise and a question about our expectations as a meta way to demonstrate “Fit For Purpose“.

Pond @ Imperial Palace East Garden @ TokyoI’ve read the story of how David Anderson’s visit to the East Gardens at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, how they control the number of visitors with a simple ticket system. The number of tickets reflect the garden’s capacity; when all the tickets are in use, they cannot accept more people; when someone leaves they return their ticket, which means a new visitor can take that ticket and enter. This low tech approach is the basis of Kanban: the availability of a ticket indicates room for a new visitor. Applying this to how a team use a Kanban board, they pull in new work when they have capacity for it rather than it being pushed on them.

Covering the Core Elements of Kanban, principles and practices was a good refresher and answered some questions for me. Often when people think of Kanban they concentrate on visualization, especially the “To Do, Doing, Done” boards used by Scrum teams, but our brief brainstorming exercise resulted in a list of other forms, e.g. architecture diagrams, story maps, and dependency network diagrams. After covering the practices, we played a cut-down version of the getKanban board game – it’s available online at http://www.kanbanboardgame.com/ The game was a great hands-on way to simulate a few days using Kanban and stimulated some interesting discussions.

In summary, the course was very useful. The content was great; it reinforced or corrected my experience, and filled in a few gaps. The instructor did a great job with the pacing, giving us time to delve deeper where we wanted to and answering all our questions. And my fellow participants helped make it enjoyable by sharing their questions and experiences too.

If, like the people in the cartoon below, you’re stuck, too busy, idle or just looking to learn more about Kanban, check out the courses at Evolutionize!