Month: August 2016

Implementing Change Using Kanban- Part III

For those who know me, you know I like boards. Some know I’ve used Kanban boards. Here’s my latest.


As cool as this one is, the board is actually not a true Kanban board. In order for it to be, we would have to be limiting our work in progress (WIP). This is actually one of the reasons why I struggled with moving to a Kanban board–because I couldn’t figure out how to limit the WIP.

Why couldn’t I limit the WIP? My company takes the traditional approach that the best results are achieved if everyone is at capacity and believes push is more effective than pull. Also, we rely on a partner who have their own methodology for completion. That’s a battle we’ll have to fight another day. Hopefully the board will help highlight the problems of this strategy and one day it can grow up to be a real Kanban board and the company will benefit from it.

One of the benefits Anderson touts about Kanban boards is that they create change by showing the flaws in a system and sparking conversation. Admittedly, I’m a little disappointed this hasn’t happened. Folks haven’t said a whole lot about it (where as the old boards did). Perhaps this is because, to them, it’s just a dry erase board with some post-its, which is rather common place. Or they have just gotten used to me making boards all the time and figure this is just another one of the odd things I do to stay organized. A friend of mine pointed out the board might get more attention if I was more centrally located (I’m kind of tucked away in a corner).

Despite the board not catching on like I’d like yet, it’s still the best tool I have. It’s helped us become better organized, helped highlight troubled areas and streamline our processes, and it continues to keep us hyper aware. Also, personally, the board has helped me understand the concept of push vs. pull and has certainly made me think more about the problem with queues. Also, a couple of project managers in the development department have asked me to do a training session on Kanban. Maybe it won’t catch on in my area but perhaps it will in others.

The board is fairly new and the project is just getting off the ground. There is still plenty of time for it to generate discussion and evolve. I’ll be posting from time to time on how this is going.

I’m ending this post with a couple of close-up shots of the board and stickies.

It’s evolved over time. Glad its dry erase!

Each site gets two post it-colors. One for circuits and one for equipment. These are going on in tandem so go to different areas of the board. Dates indicate when equipment is sent or a circuit installed. Big black checkmark indicates it actually happened. The smiley face means we received an IP from the internet provider.


Blocks are pink, describe what the problem is, and gives a date on when it became an issue.


Here’s an example of how the board highlights potential bottle necks. This area got filled really quick one morning. Our tech lead is responsible for completing these. My supervisor saw this cluster and when I explained what it was, he gave kind of a sheepish grin and said, “Oh, I guess I shouldn’t have asked him (the tech lead) to go take care of something at the other building then.”

Fortunately, it was quickly relieved and perhaps the board helped highlight this issue, but this shows the problem of a push vs pull mentality and not understanding limiting WIP.


The next post of this series is here.

Links to the rest of this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V


Implementing Change Using Kanban-Part II

The wall charts I were using were good, but had their issues.

I used Kanban boards in the past and loved them. From the beginning of the project, I wanted one. I tried several times to prototype something. But I couldn’t figure it out. I re-read Anderson’s Kanban book (thanks Carolyn!). Still couldn’t figure it out. For about a week, I gave up, thinking maybe a Kanban board just wouldn’t work with this project. There were just too many intricacies.

Something must have gotten into my subconscious, though, because for some reason, almost overnight, I figured it out.

I had used cardboard for my original wall charts. I knew a dry erase board would be better, but they were expensive and I wasn’t sure I could convince management to get me one. I looked around for a cheap alternative and found this video. Voila, Dry erase board + markers and erasers for @ $20. What a bargain.


The board is divided into each step of the process, similar to the original wall charts. What’s really different is the post-its. Each one represents a site. They work in pairs. Green represents the equipment for the site. Yellow represents the circuit. Pink represents a block. Orange is a note that requires attention.

The pros of using this type of board vs the original.

  1. It accommodates a lot more sites. There are currently 44 on the board with a lot of room to have more (this had been a concern for management with my original boards).
  2. Its dry erase so I can modify it easily (which is pretty regular). The other boards used tape which was harder to change.
  3. It shows what people are working on. I can spot a bottle neck a mile away.
  4. It’s easier to read. The old wall chart had a lot of different colored pins that one had to remember in order to read the board correctly.
  5. Related—it’s easier to maintain because it doesn’t have so many pins to keep track of. I don’t have to worry about them falling on the floor or being put in the wrong row or column.
  6. It was less expensive (a little). The other chart required tape, pins, and 3×5 cards. All that added up after a while.
  7. It was easier to make. The old wall charts required me to make the grids which could take over an hour per board. I then had to make the column headings, the card, and add the pens. For this board–I just slapped some command strips to the back of this baby, drew some lines, added the post-its, and it was to ready.
  8. It’s prettier. The brown cardboard for the old charts was kind of ugly and ghetto.


  1. It’s harder to find a site because there are a lot on the board. The old charts were organized by site so I could find them quicker.
  2. The post-it notes don’t always stick. I keep poster putty nearby. If a post-it falls, I just put a little putty on the back and re-stick. Works like a charm.

Next post—my experience using the board.

Links to the rest of this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Implementing Change Using Kanban-Part I

I think the hardest part of being Agile or a Deming disciple is dealing with resistance to change. I’ve heard the phrase that a scrum master’s lot in life is to have to swim upstream. Sometimes it feels like swimming up a waterfall.

I’m in a department that is not Agile. Fortunately, my managers are tolerant of me using agile/Deming methods and tools (I’m not sure they realize that’s what I’m doing). I thought I’d share my experiences of using them here.

My main tool is the card wall. This is one of the first things I created when I started. It stems from Deming’s emphasis on understanding a system. The tool itself is inspired by my experience with Kanban boards. Here’s a picture of it.


Yeah, its a little blurry. Sorry. I have an old phone.


Why a wall chart for implementing change? I got the idea from David Anderson’s Kanban system. It’s a visual representation of a project’s system. Its like holding up a huge mirror to the project. People see the flaws and  fix it. According to Anderson, its a good way of implementing change for an organization that is resistant to change because it doesn’t ask for any changes. It just shows the flaws.

For this project, we had to upgrade the networks for 31 sites in Canada. We had to track the circuit installs, the equipment being configured and shipped, and the final install when equipment and circuits were connected.

Each row on the chart represented a different site and each column represented a different step of the process. Half of a 3×5 card contained various information about the site including install dates and indicated where in the process the site was. Different colored pens indicated the types of equipment and the type of circuit being installed and where it was in the process. Pink scraps of post-it note indicated blocks and issues.


The result- I became hyper aware of what was going on with the project. At a glance, I could tell what was going on at each site. Few things, if any, got by me. It was my number one weapon and thank God for it.

When I put these up (there were eventually four of them) they got a lot of attention from the other employees. No one here uses wall charts so they didn’t know what to make of them. Some thought it was cool. Most were indifferent and took the tack, “well, whatever works for you.” Some didn’t get why I was doing it. I was often asked why I just didn’t use a spreadsheet. Some asked what I would do if I was moved (i.e. I’d lose all the information on the chart because it wasn’t portable). I could also tell there were some who thought it was a waste of time.

One comment did catch my attention and made me think about my strategy. This person pointed out that the 31 Canadian sites were just the tip of the iceberg. After Canada, I had almost 500 sites in the U.S. I would have to track. Though I had four charts, they accommodated only about 40 sites! What was I going to do?

There was another thing about these charts that bothered me. Though I could tell what each site needed and what was happening next, I couldn’t really see what our team was working on and where the bottle necks were.

The last thing that bothered me: I seemed to be the only one using them. I think I had made it a little too complicated for people to understand. If I want to change people’s minds, I needed them to better see what was going on. Simplicity was key.

I had to think of something else.

Links to the rest of this series:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V