Load Balancing Strategies for a Kanban Team

One of the purposes of Kanban is to create visibility on where flow is being impeded.  We should know that delays cause waste - see Real Tenets of Lean: Avoid Creating Waste By Eliminating Delays. Managing flow to avoid overwork and uneven balance avoids delays which avoids the creation of waste.  

But how do you do this? Here are some basic load-balancing strategies we've used

PracticeSymptoms Present that it Typically AddressesWhat it providesChallengesExample Solution
 Re-order the steps of the work flowOne role not staying in synch with another (e.g., testers falling behind developers).Avoidscreating delays common in the way the work is being done. Getting everyone to see the bigger picture that may have prevented the new work-flow order being implemented.Acceptance Test Driven Development 
Off-load people who are the constraint to flowCertain roles are always waiting for other roles to be available.

Many times someone who is needed to improve your work-flow is busy doing other things that are not necessary.  We've seen two common flavors of this. 

  1. People working on things ahead of time.  For example, business analysts who are essential to answer questions from the development team are busy making plans for the next release several months out.
  2. People working on things that they are the best at, but which others could do.
Very often the people who are being heroes like to be heroes - even at the expense of their personal life and the goals of the company.  However, new habits can be formed to assist them in letting others help out. 
Help people who are constraintsCertain roles are always waiting for other roles to be available.Very often other team members can assist those who are constraints.  For example, someone can attend a status meeting for them and give them the summary of information they need. Many people are not used to being assisted by others.Offload mundane tasks by hiring an intern
Have others help out work that has too many items in progressCertain roles are always waiting for other roles to be available.While we always like to get the best person we have on a job, someone who can do it well enough but  
Add more peoplePeople who are causing delays in other people's work are working beyond capacity. Achieves greater capacityThe obvious one of higher expense is clear. However, if there is severe waste in your workflow, merely adding people to it may not actually help.  In fact, if training these new folks requires participation by those who are actually constraining your work flow, this could actually help.  This is an approach to use only after the other methods have been attempted and or discarded. 


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

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