Learning Kanban with getKanban

Couple days ago, I had the pleasure tweeting back and forth with Russell Healy the inventor of the game getKanban. David Anderson was playing the beta of getKanban v3 at his training in London and gave Russell some feedback.

Thinking about it I decided to tell you a little bit about the game as some of you might not know it.

getKanban is a round based board game which can be played by as many players as you are, but its best you play it with no more than four people, cause by playing with four, each of them can take responsibility of a role in the game.

Like I mentioned getKanban is a board game. The board shows a Kanban board which consists of five columns, which are

  • Ready[6]
  • Design[3]
  • Development[5]
  • Test[3]
  • Deployed

Design and Development are divided into “Doing” and “Done” and besides Deployed all columns have a Work In Progress (WIP)-Limit printed next to their name. See the numbers in the brackets. At the top of the board there is also an expedite swim lane.

Besides the board, there are different event cards you have to pick at certain days, different charts like a CFD (Cumulative Flow Diagram) or Control Chart and of course different classes of story cards.

The classes are the classes described by David in his book: Intangible, Fixed DateExpedite and Standard. To finish a story the team rolls the dice. Each stage(design, development and test) has a certain number of dices, but the team can decide if they want to add people from one team to another at the daily standup. Although the members from the other are not as strong as the normal team members, every dice who belongs to the team is doubled, it is quite a good idea to move people around.

Each story card shows you the number of pips you need to dice in order to finish the stage, the story is in. In the upper right corner of fixed date stories you see the fine the team has to pay if delivered late. Standard stories on the other hand show the number of paying subscribers you get as soon as the team delivers.

The team consists of the project manager, financial analyst, cumulative flow diagram tracker and the control chart tracker. Each role has its tasks. Except for the project managers role, whose job is to facilitate the daily standup and ensuring the process policies are respected; the other roles do not need any further explanation they just take care of the charts.

So now that we have all everything we need, the game starts on the ninth day of the project and ends at day 22. Every day cycles through six daily steps.

  1. Daily Standup – teams decides what the best strategy is for the day
  2. Play Board – rolling the dices, pulling stories, etc.
  3. Sanity Check – Cycle times and day deployed are updated, Ready column updated
  4. Track Charts
  5. Day Complete and if billing cycle is reached the financial chart is updated
  6. Event Card

Writing the list I realized I forgot to mention, every third day in the game a billing cycle is completed and the team gets paid by their subscribers. The subscribers are defined by the delivered stories.

As you can imagine the project will not run as smoothly as supposed and the team has to handle some tough situations. Some of them will cost you money some of them will get you some. Some other events will jeopardy your cycle time. I will not tell you more in order to preserve you the surprising moments in the game. Just as much, it is a wonderful way of teaching people the mechanics of Kanban, while having fun. It covers almost everything one will encounter in a project, where Kanban is used.  In my opinion it should definitely be part of a good Kanban training.  I enjoyed playing it and I am pretty sure you will do so, too.

What is your experience with getKanban? Maybe you have something else you think is very useful teaching people Kanban and its mechanics? Please share it with me and other readers in the comments. Thank you for reading.


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