Kanban Cadences – Set the Right Pace for your Company

Kanban cadences

Kanban probably is the most flexible out of the Agile frameworks, asking the team to act based on demand. Compared to Scrum it may seem unorganized and unpredictable, but in reality, Kanban also operates in certain rhythms. To most of the practitioners, these rhythms are known as Kanban cadences. Haven’t heard this term before? Well then keep on reading.

What are Kanban Cadences?

For those not familiar with the term ‘cadence’ it is used to describe a rhythmic sequence of sounds or a regular and repeated pattern of activity. The latter is closest to what we mean when talking about Kanban cadences.

Contrary to other Agile frameworks like Scrum, Kanban does not describe any timeboxed meetings for its teams. It seems like everyone is free to pick and choose which meetings and when they are going to be holding. While this may seem liberating to those tired of meetings, others may sense there is a lack of information sharing and collaboration when working this way.

To solve this dilemma, David J. Anderson has introduced a concept of Kanban cadences – a set of meetings that the team should be held regularly to ease the flow of information through the company. The set of 7 meetings differs in their scope and frequency and includes different people to ensure information is reaching the right people at all times. The regular rhythm of all these meetings indicates that the company is working effectively and reaching its set goals.

The 7 meetings

The Kanban cadences can be divided into three groups based on their main objective –

1 – Getting things done

2 – Doing the most important things

3 – And improving the process

All of the 7 meetings serve one of these purposes with the exception being Replenishment/commitment meeting that serves both the first and second goals. Besides this meeting, the first goal is reassured with a Standup meeting and Delivery planning meeting. The second goal is assured with a Strategy review and the third goal is ensured with – Service delivery review, Risk review, and Operations review.

Here is more on each of these meetings.

1 Daily Standup meeting

The first of the Kanban cadences is the famous standup meeting. Probably one of the first things that come into most of our minds when talking about Agile and thus it is no surprise finding it on this list. The objective of the daily standup is simple – gather with your team and take 15 minutes to talk about what work you are doing, how it is going, and what can be improved. This should be short and sweet – a minute per team member as the reason for this standup is to share information, not find solutions.

Besides the general update from everyone, review late items, bottlenecks and ensure additional resources are assigned if necessary. It is a great practice to hold the daily standup at the same place and time every day to get the team used to it and provide consistency.

Use the Kanban board: As a reference to what has been done and to help identify issues.

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2 Weekly Replenishment/Commitments meeting

To keep the Backlog full and prioritized according to the newest trends and strategy, teams should hold regular Replenishment meetings. This Kanban cadence is usually around 30 minutes long and happens weekly. Though some teams may set a less frequent pace depending on their needs.

The whole purpose of this meeting is to fill the Kanban Board backlog with new work items for the team to complete. When doing so, it is important to check with the current strategic objectives and team capacity to make sure urgent items are done in time and can adhere to set delivery dates.

Use the Kanban board: Add new items to the backlog on your board and reprioritize tasks as needed.

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3 Bi-weekly Service delivery review

The third Kanban cadence is all about the client. One of the biggest advantages of Kanban is being able to change course as needed. Thus, it is extremely important to know when you have to do so and there is no one better to ask than your client.

The bi-weekly service delivery review is a 30-minute meeting that aims to do just that. Present what the team has been doing since the last meeting and gather customer feedback. To do so, this meeting usually involves the customer, representatives from the team, and a manager to facilitate the conversation. It is up to the team representatives to measure the customer satisfaction level with various metrics and then relay this information to other team members to adjust what is being done.

Use the Kanban board: Add in new customer requirements to the backlog and reprioritize current items as needed.

4 Delivery planning meeting

To make sure each delivery cycle or iteration brings something new to the table and at the same time adheres to some sort of a plan, Kanban teams should hold delivery planning meetings. Usually, this is done once per delivery at the beginning of the cycle and takes 1-2 hours to plan out what has to be done for a certain due date. Thus giving guidelines for the delivery cycle and what the team has to work towards.

Whether the team is working with a fixed deadline or simply are setting goals for the next iteration, this Kanban cadence should be repeated for each delivery cycle.

Use the Kanban board: Use a separate Kanban board for strategy planning and move items to the team’s backlog once you decide to move forward.

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5 Monthly Risk Review

This next Kanban cadence is more or less what you see – a risk review identifying what things and bottlenecks could impact the team’s performance and how they can be fixed. Risk review meeting should be attended by everyone aware of a certain issue and usually takes 1-2 hours to complete. Being that issues and bottlenecks differ from month to month, the attendees of this event can vary greatly.

Use the Kanban board: As a reference to previous issues and how they can be avoided.

6 Bi-monthly Operations review

To keep the whole company operating efficiently, a bi-monthly operations review meeting should also be held. Here representatives from various departments take 1-2 hours to review the process and identify possibilities for improvement.

It is important to understand that this Kanban cadence takes a look at the whole operation. Even if a single team is effective in their own efforts, they could still be causing bottlenecks for their colleagues. Thus, a thorough look should be taken at issues and their causes.

Use the Kanban board: To implement new process structure.

7 Quarterly Strategy review

Lastly, the final Kanban cadence is the quarterly strategy review. The longest half to a full-day meeting where senior executives, top management, and client-facing team members gather to set the course for the company. This is the core of any business and a meeting that sets the tone for everything else giving guidance and goals.

The strategy review is based on what the company wants to be, what the customers are looking for and what is possible to achieve in the next quarter.

Use the Kanban board: Create a separate Kanban board for strategy planning and move plans forward as you decide to take them on.

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Implementing Kanban Cadences

7 additional meetings is surely a big number and you may be thinking adding this much can cause disturbance in the operation of your team. And there is no point in arguing as this is absolutely true.

However, implementing Kanban cadences does not mean creating completely new meetings for your team. Instead, you should review the meetings you currently have in your company and see how you can fit them into this structure. You will surely see that you are already implementing a couple of Kanban cadences, some meetings may need to be reworked just a little and you may have to add one or two new events.

If all of this sounds too difficult, start with one cadence and implement it. Once you have settled into the rhythm, add on another one and another one. This way you can ease your company and avoid big shock right out of the gate.

Summary

Kanban is one of the most flexible Agile frameworks, but to make sure the heart of the company keeps beating Kanban too needs some kind of a rhythm. Kanban cadences help set this rhythm and make sure the team is operating not only in the now but also creating value for the future. Review your current meeting structure and see what needs to be improved or added to make sure the company’s heart is beating strongly.

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