Lo-Fi for the Flow Guy

Recently I was doing some pair Kanban Coaching with Karl Scotland, and as is not uncommon during these types of engagements, we got out of the classroom and “took a tour of the Gemba”.

Whilst the tremendous value that an accurate Kanban board can add to the effectiveness of such a coaching exercise should probably be the topic of another blog post, on this particular occasion another aspect jumped out at me; and that was the raw power of the lo-fi solution.

There were multiple teams, and each team had their own Kanban board. All were functional, none were fancy. They had been made out of what was to hand, whiteboards, envelopes, post-it notes etc.

As we moved from board to board we made comments and asked questions, and in several cases, working with the teams we immediately made tweaks and improvements to issues they were facing. And by immediately – I mean we did it then and there.  Limits were changed with the rub of thumb and the swish of a marker, the use and meaning of “blocked” stickers was changed in an instant, batches were made, unmade and sized, columns were added and removed. The changes were tangible and immediate. Changes that worked were kept, those that didn’t were so low cost to make it just didn’t matter.  The sheer absence of friction created its own momentum and spoke directly to the hacker and tweaker that lurks inside everybody passionate about creating great software solutions.

Whilst seeking process flow, each of us fell naturally and happily into a state of personal flow.

At the end of the tour each board and team was the better for it.  The level of understanding had risen markedly – as the team now felt the board. The board also described the work better by showing the actual current state & shape of flow as the team understood it (and that was without generating even a single CFD)

All this was done without permission, the need for a licence, admin access or even a thought to how this might “effect historical data”

There are some pretty decent Agile & Lean tools out there these days, but for sheer speed and humanity of operation, the lo-fi approach has some serious advantages which I think tend to get overlooked far too often.

If you and your team have lost that flowing feeling, it might be time to go old school for a while.

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