Before you start with Kanban it is important to decide where you want to embed it in the overall organizational context. Sounds like an easy question, however, I learned that it is not always so easy to answer – especially in bigger organizations. Therefore, I developed the Kanban flight levels model which helps me to communicate the different fields of application of Kanban.
Flight level 1: organizational unit, uncoordinated input
No doubt, Kanban improves efficiency of the department. However, the point is that there’s NO input coordination and therefore, people are often working on the “wrong things” more efficiently which does not significantly increase the overall efficiency.
Flight level 2: organizational unit, coordinated input
Flight level 3: value stream
Flight level 4: portfolio
Flight levels and change
- Kanban flight levels is a model which defines possible scopes of Kanban. I know that reality is much more colorful than this model. However, we also know that all models are inherently wrong; some are useful 😉
- I use the model to (1) show the potential of Kanban and to (2) clarify with my client where we want to start the Kanban change initiative.
- Flight level 1 focuses on improving an organizational unit like teams or departments. Main characteristic on this flight level is, there is no coordinated input – no queue replenishment meeting. There’s the danger that people are processing the wrong things more efficiently which does not significantly increase the overall efficiency.
- Flight level 2 also focuses on improving individual organizational units. However, at this flight level the input to the organizational units is coordinated. This leads to a great performance increase because the work being processed is “more right”.
- Flight level 3 focuses on improving the value stream by optimizing the interactions of organizational units which leads to a tremendous performance increase, mostly because (1) queue size is reduced significantly and (2) people are working on the right things.
- Flight level 4 focuses on improving multiple value streams which leads to a much better understanding of balancing demand vs. capability and managing risk.
- Each flight level requires a different change approach to successfully start with Kanban.