The Kanban game

By Kirstin in Agile on November 06, 2013

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Last Friday five of us took a couple of hours to sit down and play The Kanban game, which had recently arrived all the way from the US.

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The Kanban game is played with a team of four to six people. Each team has a board that represents a Kanban task board, and a stack of cards representing work to be done. Teams compete to maximise net profit by optimising the flow of work.

During the game our team learnt:

During the game the teams construct charts based on data from the game including a Cumulative Flow Diagram, and a Statistical Process Control Chart. Simulated events occur throughout the game to challenge the teams and require them to make prioritisation and resource allocation decisions.

Although there is an initial learning curve which takes about 30 minutes to go through, once you get into the first day of the game it’s pretty obvious how the game progresses. Much like in the day to day life of an Agile team, unexpected events occur, items with firm deadlines are added and personalities have an effect on progress.

At the end of each billing cycle (every three ‘days’) during the game, the ‘financial controller’ adds up the income for that cycle. The team works through each day collaborating on which items to progress through the Kanban flow, which to prioritise and where resource should be utilised.

By day 15 we had also been asked to make decisions on items such as work in progress limits, whether to prioritise intangible items such as a story to automate deployments.

From our experience of playing the game we recommend setting aside three hours to play it and get the full benefit of playing through each day of the game.

Overall we found the game incredibly useful for teaching self managing teams how to really engage with managing the flow of work and the benefits of doing so. We’d recommend it to both newer teams and teams who have been working with Agile practices for longer.