Using simulation to experience flow - Teaching fundamentals of Kanban and modern agility.

April 24, 2016


Learning happens faster when you experience it!


From a young age, we are fed knowledge in order to learn. But is all this knowledge allowing us to make smarter and better decisions? Most of the learning today is still done through a traditional approach of teachers (or trainers) pushing knowledge towards students (or trainees), who willingly or reluctantly, ingest loads of information. Learning is seen as the reception of factual information and is assumed to be a passive process. While this process might work in school, once we become working professionals and practitioners, applying the theory to practice becomes a difficult endeavour. We found, after teaching Kanban courses to our customers, it takes people a long time before they really understand verywell the concept of flow and how to continually improve it (especially improve end-to-end flow across teams when the true added of flow value kicks in). This was also our own experience, the longer you work in Kanbanland the better you understand the concept of flow.


Imagine instead of listening to a trainer trying to transfer all his knowledge, you attend a workshop and learn the difficult concepts of Kanban and modern agility through experience. Not just through a one-off game with predetermined rules, tucked somewhere between all the mind-boggling theories, but rather through a full blown simulation artificially creating a knowledge work environment in which attendees are faster exposed to the flow experience.


Based on many years of experience in solving flow issues with clients, Okaloa has developed a full day workshop filled with a variety of simulations fully immersing attendees into the fundamentals of Kanban and modern agility. It represents a set of board play simulations developed as experiments, using your context as a starting condition. Each experiment is designed to allow participants to experience the impact of decisions and policies on the flow of work, the obstacles that can be encountered along the way, and the result when those obstacles are removed. Experiments can range from single teams with specialist workers, all the way to complex end-to-end workflows with cross-team dependencies and just-in-time requirements (coming from an upstream process). After each simulation, the group stops to discuss what happened and decides on ways forward.


Concepts are explained during the simulations, augmenting the learning by mimicking true-to-life scenarios to experience what is required to tackle the daily challenges of complex work environments. The simulations are built in a way that new knowledge and experiences are picked up in a safe environment. Other than with playing business games, the focus of these simulations is on experiencing and learning and not on winning. Under the guidance and supervision of the two trainers, participants experiment to find what will work best at their organizations through a series of linked simulations. Participants will not only experience the importance of flow thinking through active experimentation, but they will also apply reflective observation techniques to practice how to handle change and gain the skills to give direction to change.


During a half day workshop, we present a short version of the full day simulation workshop. Because of time constraints we will do one representative (upstream-downstream) simulation. The workshop is intended for both novice as well as experienced lean/agile practitioners. The novice agile user will explore the essence of lean agile in a practical and realistic way, while the experienced user will discover the power of simulations as a short-cut to faster and better learning. The full day workshop is a good addition to (LKU certified) Kanban courses or a CSM training and will shorten the time that is required to put theory into practice and become an experienced Kanban or modern agility practitioner!


Here are links to further information.


At Lean London Kanban Days 2016 (#LLKD16) we ran a teaser session of our "experience flow simulations workshop". The session was very well received by the group attending the small Mystery room. One of the attendees mentioned that this session was the most interesting session at the whole conference: practical, to the point and also fun at the same time (not only fun!).


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