Design, Develop, Create

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Kanban objects and interaction

In Japanese; Kanban: Literally, a ‘watch over – board’: a billboard, poster or sign. The first character (reading "kan") combines the primitive elements of heavenly/above and eyes/see to convey watch over or oversee. The second character (reading "ban") combines the elements of wood with bending/resistance meaning which together are taken to be 'board'.

A time-lapse video of a physical kanban/scrum board being used by the Vodafone Web Team in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The underlying mechanism for Scrum is based on kanban which originated in the Toyota Product System. We see these Kanban boards in many workplaces. Kanban is just a board but it becomes a focal point, a social/organisational device. The operation of a Kanban is based on two principles: Pull system, and Visibility.

The other essential aspect of a Kanban in software development is design collaboration; collective involvement in design decisions. Kanban and collaborative design are complementary practices. They act to flatten hierarchy, and enable communication. But 'flat' and democratic, while reducing propensity for individuals to ‘dominate’ also reduces the opportunity to for them to ‘hide’. Agile teams can be very tricky to run as they bring issues of power, control, reputation, face, failing and succeeding into the public sphere of work.