Double funnel look at Kanban

Though many have drawn up double funnel models, a few days back whilst talking with Dan Brown (aka Kanban Dan) about constraints and Kanban, we modified his double funnel diagram by adding in a vice with the initial applying forces of Command & Control and as these forces are applied the blame force grows exponentially.

So what does this double funnel represent?

The incoming funnel is the constraint the business places on the delivery (fixed scope, time and cost – even worse they may dictate the actual solution as apposed to presenting IT with the problem), the middle part is the teams attempting to run in an Agile fashion (iterations, test driven, etc…) and the outgoing funnel is the release train (rigid schedules, manual releases, over importance placed on documentation, etc…).

What affect does this have? Ultimately it festers a blame culture (without naming companies, I have seen this in two companies I have worked for). The business places unrealistic expectations on the IT function and the limited release mechanism limits their ability to get features to market (this creating an image of a slow IT function).
The business will complain that IT cannot meet its expectations and the release team will be Teflon and point the finger back at the delivery team (and often because they are doing butchered Agile they’ll say its the teams responsibility even though they place release constraints on the team; responsibility but side stepping accountability by the release team).

Initially the blame towards the delivery team will be small, then over time it will grow exponential until the point that before a team has even started working on a product / project there will be an unhealthy negativity towards them (if you hear rhetoric like; ‘well IT always let us down’, ‘we should consider outsourcing because they’ll be quicker and cheaper’, ‘because of your past failed deployment, your out of release credits’, etc….). This will ultimately lead to a high turn over of IT staff as they will feel undervalued.

How to avoid funnels? Read Theory of constraints and Kanban, both adopt production smoothing techniques (WIP, etc…), invest in continuous deployment / delivery, work on improving business collaboration, etc…

Have a go at drawing up your own double funnels, here is a template you can use (PSD format), double funnels aren’t just limited to requirements and release, there’s a number of ‘double funnels’ in a business, a good start would be to capture all of these and present them back to those creating the constraints and looking at ways to remove the bottlenecks.

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