The Rhythm of Success: Kanban Meetings
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. In the same way that the Kanban method uses analysis and feedback loops to improve workflow efficiency, Kanban meetings aim to improve the efficiency of the whole organisation.
From quick daily check-ins within a team to big-picture strategy reviews with senior executives, Kanban meetings keep interconnected Kanban systems operating efficiently, identify problem areas and assess overall customer satisfaction. David J Anderson, a key figure in modern Kanban history, identifies 7 essential Kanban meetings or cadences to implement.
A cadence refers to a regular rhythm – an important feature of Kanban meetings are their regularity. This is especially important for big-picture meetings such as strategy reviews which can be indefinitely put off until things come to a breaking point.
Imagine Kanban cadences as the heartbeat of your delivery process. Irregularities and skipped beats signify trouble ahead and inconsistent output. Regular, steady heartbeats signal a healthy body in working order – consistent functions which can be used to accurately forecast future delivery.
The function of the Kanban cadences can be divided into three overlapping groups:
- Getting things done
- Doing the right things
- Doing things better
Types of Kanban Meetings
Here we’ll explain the essential Kanban cadences from most to least frequent. Remember that all the meetings lead back to the same goal – faster delivery, more efficient flow and improved client satisfaction.
We’ve included suggested Kanban cadence frequencies and lengths as a starting point – feel free to adapt them according to the needs of your project and team. Certain events can also be used to trigger meetings – for example, risk reviews are generally conducted monthly but could be triggered by a critical glitch that made it through to production.
Suggested Frequency: Daily
Suggested Length: 15 minutes
The key features of the Standup Meeting is that it is quick and efficient – it is traditionally held standing, so nobody gets too comfortable. The aim of the Standup Meeting is to answer the following three questions:
- What’s impeding us?
- How is work flowing?
- What can we improve?
Focus on the day ahead and immediate future – this meeting isn’t the place for big picture strategy discussions. Pay special attention to stalled work items, potential bottlenecks and team members with nothing to do to keep workflows efficient. Everyone in the team should take part, a higher number of people involved invites more viewpoints and improvement insights.
We recommend having the Standup Meeting at the same time and place everyday for consistency – don’t be late!
Suggested Frequency: Weekly
Suggested Length: 30 minutes
To keep a steady stream of tasks moving across the Kanban board, the number of tasks in the backlog must be stocked up and prioritised. This takes place during the Replenishment Meeting. The Kanban Method suggests an approach of backlog management that eliminates the need for manual backlog reordering. We recommend 30 minutes for a Replenishment meeting, however the frequency will vary according to team needs. A fast-paced workflow with many small tasks can require weekly replenishment meetings, while a slower workflow of large, detailed tasks could only need replenishment monthly.
Key things to keep in mind during Replenishment meetings is the Class of Service of new work items, larger strategic objectives and whether any tasks need specific team member skills to be completed. The Replenishment meeting should involve portfolio/product owners and product development management.
Service Delivery Review
Suggested Frequency: Bi-Weekly
Suggested Length: 30 minutes
All the efficiency in the world is wasted if the most important stakeholder – the client – is not satisfied. The Service Delivery Review aims to look at how well the client is being served by the team’s output. An additional benefit of this meeting is cultivating trust with your customer through acting transparently and engaging directly with their concerns.
This meeting should involve the customer (or its representatives), the service delivery manager and representatives from the delivery team. You might find other stakeholders should be involved depending on the needs of your project. Kanban is a data-driven method that relies upon metrics – consider how client satisfaction criteria can be assessed objectively. Some targets that can be set include desired lead/cycle time lengths, lead time consistency and overall delivery rates.
Delivery Planning Meeting
Suggested Frequency: Per delivery cadence (variable)
Suggested Length: 1-2 hour
Work can not always be delivered to clients on the day it is finished – some release dates are inevitably fixed. In a Delivery Planning meeting, the team can predict what needs to be ready for release as well as what other work items are due to be finished. The cumulative flow diagram, throughput histogram and cycle time scatterplot can be used to make data-driven decisions.
This Kanban meeting should also take into account any hand-off requirements or training activities needed for the client. Ensuring smooth transfers of work goes a long way towards eliminating inefficiencies and keeping customer satisfaction high. Be aware that committing work items to a fixed delivery date should change their Class of Service from standard to fixed date.
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Suggested Frequency: Monthly
Suggested Length: 1-2 hours
A self-explanatory Kanban meeting, the Risk Review examines factors that put work delivery at risk. In this meeting, blockers and backlogs should be examined to predict future risks to delivery. The causes of past failures should be assessed and their causes mitigated or resolved. Anyone familiar with current and recent blockers should participate – this will change from month to month, making this the meeting with the most variation in participants.
Suggested Frequency: Monthly
Suggested Length: 2 hours
The Operations Review takes a holistic view of all the different interconnecting internal teams and systems. Even if individual teams have high efficiency, the whole organisation can be held back by one improperly functioning part or hand-off inefficiencies.
This Kanban meeting involves managers from different divisions, departments and systems looking for ways to improve the efficiency of the whole. Particular attention should be paid to interdependencies between Kanban systems that can have a ripple effect on overall delivery times. The Operations Review is also an ideal time to spot areas of underused capacity throughout the organisation that can be used to shorten lead times.
Suggested Frequency: Quarterly
Suggested Length: Half-day
The Strategy Review takes a big-picture look at the whole operation – a perfectly efficient vehicle is little use if driving in completely the wrong direction. This Kanban meeting takes into account the larger market landscape, examines new changes, and compares delivery speeds with the rate of market changes. The wider strategic goals and direction can be used to set a Kanban roadmap. Translating direction into monthly, weekly and daily goals can then take place during Delivery Planning Meetings and Replenishment Meetings.
The aim is to identify potential large-scale problems and course-correct or optimise team operations where necessary. Ideal participants for the Strategy Review include senior executives, portfolio/product owners, senior team members from customer-facing departments such as sales and marketing.
Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to burden your team with a huge stack of additional meetings! Look in your calendar of existing meetings to see which can be adapted or added to – many of these Kanban meetings can be flexibly incorporated into meetings that are already scheduled.
How have you structured your Kanban meetings? Which of the Kanban cadences has been most helpful to your delivery process? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is an independent consultant who helps organisations deliver successful projects as a Product Manager and Agile Coach. She is a proud mother of a daughter and a son, and enjoys good food and heavyweight boxing championships. Sonya is a regular blogger and founder at Nave.
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