In search of flow

Every team is in a search for flow, achieving flow requires and a view of work-in-progress – WIP – and frequently the use of work-in-progress-limit. Identification and removal of blocks and bottlenecks isn’t enough, one needs to engineer them out.

Easier said than done? – I’m glad to unveil a new video to help illustrate these ideas and a short online workshop next month for people to learn by doing.

For both I have to thank Mike Burrows for inventing a game called Featureban. The game broadly models a Kanban system and shows how work becomes marooned and how WIP-limits can help address the problem.

Mike’s original Featureban game is a physical game (download it here), I created an online version which I’ve run a few times with clients. With the help of the good people at KanbanZone, Mike and I recorded a game last month and this is the video which is now free to watch: Featureban Flow Experience.

I’m running the Featureban workshop again in a few weeks, use the code ABlog20 to get a discount on the tickets.

Watching the video after the event reveals lessons which were easy to miss at the time. What I find particularly interesting is that the game is played by four experienced agile coaches but it still very quickly descends into a mess. Even in the second iteration when WIP limits are imposed the coaches find it difficult to work in the best way – even though they all know how to!

This shows how workers are often prisoners to the system they work within. The rules, and expectations create constrains. Changing the rules, actually imposing stricter rules, encourages people to co-ordinate work more closely.

Anyway, watch the video and draw your own lessons. Better still join me in a few weeks time – once you’ve played you will want to play it with your colleagues.

By the way, we are playing using a visual board called KanbanZone – perhaps the only visual tool I actually like! We will soon be making a free Featureban template available on KanbanZone. If you sign up with my link then you will get a free trial and can play the game yourself.

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