Kanban Systems are pull systems that limit work-in-progress and have been part of the automotive world for 50+ years. The last decade, Kanban systems have been explored to manage knowledge work (including, but not limited to, software development). Discovery Kanban systems are a special breed of Kanban systems that establish flow in knowledge work in the context of innovation and change. Discovery Kanban is an integrative approach. It is not just about creating flow in discovery (ref. Lean startup, Lean UX), but, more than that, integrating discovery and delivery in one (lean and adaptive) management framework.
Innovation and change is the number one challenge for organizations today. Not just because organizations need to manage the change from an analog past to a digital future but more importantly because they need to make the paradigm shift from a focus on execution to a focus on innovation. Knowledge work, and how it is managed, plays an increasingly important role. It is not just about exploiting existing knowledge for solving non-routine problems, but more and more it is about the exploration of new knowledge in order to find out which problems are the relevant problems to be solved.
Discovery Kanban systems are Kanban systems that establish flow in knowledge work, both in solving non-routine problems (exploitation) as well as in finding out which problems to solve (exploration). Discovery Kanban systems comprise of Upstream Kanban (for managing the inbound process of capturing requirements), Experiment Kanban (validated learning), and, Observation Kanban (pre-hypothesis and strategic decision making). Discovery Kanban is based on the foundational principles and practices of The Kanban Method focussing on “stop starting, start finishing” and “managing work not workers” extended with core insights from Lean start-up and Real options focussing on “outcomes not outputs” and “never commit early unless you know why”. In practices, Discovery and Delivery Kanban systems are brought together in a big visual management room (or OOBEYA) to manage the end-to-end flow in service, product, technology and process innovation and development.
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