With Kanban it is possible to balance demand against capability. We have tools to transform our way of working incrementally and scientifically towards a more balanced environment where real value can be delivered often.
There are numerous reasons for balancing demand against capability but one of the most fundamental I believe is that a team must have a mental state of being able. And one of the foundation for this is to work in environment where it is possible to deliver according to demand.
According to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi we might be able to enter the mental state described as flow if we both have high skills and a challenging work.
Flow in individual team members is not necessary the same as collective flow in a team. Even an overburden team has individuals capable of entering flow. When demand increases capability some of the team members will continue to deliver, sometimes even more. And they will appear as super employees in the manager eyes. These individuals will get managers tapping on the shoulders increasing their personal feeling of capability even though its mainly urgent hot fixes being delivered.
How about mental state of the whole team?
Everyone wants to do a good job. Everyone wants to feel that they are able to do their best. But in a situation when the team is overburden this is hard. As the workload increases more than it is possible to deliver the collective mental state moves from feeling capable towards feeling incompetent. Not because of shortcomings in knowledge but because of constantly not being able to deliver according to demand.
If I would map an overburden team on a modified “mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level chart” (Mihály Csíkszentmihályi) it would be on the left side of the chart. The axis and terms in below example is modified from the original to match what I believe is the teams collective mental state.
The collective feeling of capability would be low and this is regardless of individual knowledge, competence, understanding of goals and experienced challenge.
What we want is the whole team to feel that they are capable. We would like to move the mental state towards controlled, engaged, relaxed and ultimately flow.
One step for this to happen is to begin balancing demand against capability.
// Mats Ygfors