Some employees don’t like the word accountability. In our experience, confident employees with strong skill levels tend not to mind accountability.

If monitoring a team of brick layers adding masonry siding to a house under construction, you could drive by the site and see the progress. You can see how many bricks are on the wall, how much scrap is laying about, and how many bricks are left on pallets to be done yet.

In knowledge work, you can walk by the cubes, offices or team work areas and see people typing at their computers. Where the work effort is in process is not visible just standing there. You may interrupt the team periodically and ask for a progress report.

Kanban makes the work in process visible down to what step in the process each part is in, how much WIP inventory exists and scrap or defect volume, just like the brick layers' site.

Because each person claims cards they pull with their avatar or initials, who is doing what becomes visible too. Whether the workload is balanced or not becomes apparent.

Let us tell you about Dave. His name was changed to protect him. Dave joined a learning experience development team of strong performers in a specialist media role. The daily synchronization meetings kept showing bottlenecks at Dave’s process steps. It caused further investigating by the lead. Dave was not keeping up. His speed of servicing work item cards was not keeping up with expectations of X number of LOs per day. He did not ask for help, but he did not perform. He was right out of school and was not used to a fast-paced cadence or tempo like that yet. We coached and counseled him on expectations and gave him time to show improvement. No improvement came. Finally, we removed Dave from the team and replaced him with another person. She worked through the bottleneck and caught up. We could have added additional staff except that this particular project was a firm, fixed-price project, so we had to replace him. He was not fired, but was moved to a traditional, non-Agile project where they trained him some more on improving his personal work throughput.

The Kanban is not intended as a punishment tool. It simply makes visible what is happening and not happening and lets the team decide where they can make adjustments for improvement.


Line By Line

Here a Little, There a Little, Layer by Layer.

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