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Are you ready for the KSI class?

Updated: Jan 11

The Kanban Management Professional (KMP) program consists of two training classes: Kanban System Design (KSD) and Kanban System Improvement (KSI). A common question from students is how soon to take KSI after completing KSD.


Strictly speaking the only requirement is to take them in order (first KSD, then KSI), and therefore there is no impediment to take them back-to-back. Moreover, for some people, this strategy makes good sense: if you already have some Kanban experience, and your main motivation for formal training is not initial exposure, but filling in gaps and formalizing what you already know. Or perhaps you are mostly on a coaching role, advising people responsible for actual service delivery, in which case having the full view of how to apply the Kanban Method makes sense.


But for most practitioners, especially those for whom KSD was their introduction to Kanban, my recommendation is to take what they've learnt in KSD, go back to the office and attempt to apply it, to see how far they can go with that initial knowledge. This will help them acquire experience, observations, and more importantly, questions about real problems they still don't know how to solve. Armed with that, they will be in better position to absorb the KSI content, and focus their training experience in a more pragmatic fashion.


What "super powers" can you expect to have after KSD that you didn't have before?


Right after finishing your KSD class, these are some of the skills you should expect to have when returning to the office:


  • Seeing "services", rather than just "teams". You will start noticing that work needs to flow predictably from a "commitment point" (perhaps way upstream from you and outside your control) and that more that one teams are involved in managing that. Maybe your sphere of influence is only your immediate team, but you'll gain a more "systemic" perspective of the work you do (and the challenges you face)

  • Conceptualizing "upstream" refinement as distinct from "downstream" delivery. Finally you'll find home for activities like "grooming" or "intake"; they may be under your control or not, but you'll be able to visualize them now

  • A more sophisticated understanding of your "demand" (the work that comes to your door), which can be classified in "work item types", with "patterns of arrival" and "classes of service"

  • Analyzing your capability (what you're able to produce, which is different from your "capacity") using metrics and (basic) statistical thinking

  • Appreciating the impact that the amount of "work in progress" (WIP) has on your ability to deliver predictably, and some strategies to prevent it from getting too high

  • Visualizing all your work on Kanban boards that draw people's attention to those things that are worth talking about

  • Facilitating better daily stand-up meetings that focus on the work, not in recounting the various meetings people attended yesterday.


With this toolset, you normally start by building a Kanban Board and meeting regularly in front of it with your team(s). During the class you will learn a methodology (STATIK) that you can use to have the proper conversations to design that board, a process that can be quite illuminating in itself. Once the board comes online, as I usually tell students, that's where the fun really begins 😉


A "Definition of Ready" for KSI


So, if you're a KSD graduate, ask yourself: have I done all those things above already? If the answer is "NO", then I'd recommend you try them first, before jumping into more training.


"But wait!", you might be saying, "none of these helps me directly with problems I already know I have, such as dependencies with other teams, unexpected urgent work arriving in the middle of the sprint, needs for more agility from upper management, disengaged team members, etc.". And you'd be right!


In fact KSI is designed to give you answers to common improvement challenges like those above, BUT it assumes you have a good foundation, in the form of a Kanban system, that you can use as the source of insights about those challenges, the starting point for those improvements, and the catalyst for them.


I would recommend using the following check-list as the criteria for deciding if you're ready for KSI:


  • We've done at least one round of STATIK

  • We've implemented a Kanban Board that visualizes all our current work, including:

    • A workflow that identifies dominant activities (and goes beyond "To do | In Progress | Done")

    • Work Item Types

    • Explicit transition policies

    • A visualization for "Expedites" and "Blockers"

  • We've been running regular Kanban-style standup meetings in front of that board, and having retrospectives for some time, which have generated sources of dissatisfaction and other observations

  • We've collected enough metrics to build a (rudimentary) lead time distribution chart (from current or historical data), and we have a mechanism to keep collecting data.


How long will this take? I've seen teams do it fairly quickly (a few weeks), while for others it might take a few months. I have to point out that the intent here is not to have "the perfect Kanban board" in place, but one that it's good enough to keep you going. Remember that the real goal is to find your own limits in terms of answering your own questions, so that additional training can help you expand those limits.


If you feel you're ready to take the KSI training class, and you can't find a date that suits you in our public training schedule, you can use this form to suggest a suitable date. I'll work with you and other interested parties to figure out alternatives.


If you're unsure about where you stand today, how to get started after your KSD class, or how close you're to be ready for KSI, feel free to drop me an email (fernando@squirrelnorth.com), and we'll talk about it.



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