Implementing Change Using Kanban- Part IX

Team Kanban

Ultimately, Kanban is about people. Its not about me and my cool board. These are the good folks who helped me with the project and used the board. THANK YOU!

This is the last install for the Kanban board. The project has ended. Lessons learned have been gathered. A new project has begun with its own board.

Recent Comments

  • “Have you seen his board? You have GOT to see his board.” ~ One of our PMs to our visiting PMO managers.
  • “I love coming over here. It inspires me.”~ One of our PMs referring to our board.
  • “You must fear the cleaning crew.”~ One of our PMO managers after seeing the board.
  • “This is one of the most innovative things we are doing here.”~ One of our employees showing the board to visiting students.
  • “I was skeptical about using the board and the post-it notes, but it worked out pretty well.” ~ One of our team members during Lessons Learned.

Observations

  • I’ve gotten better at explaining the board to people. My go to explanations:
    • “It allows me to sleep at night.”
    • “It leverages the concept that the project is a system and this is a visual representation of it.”
    • “It allows me to easily identify bottlenecks and recognize areas of concern.”
    • “It leverages psychology in that human beings are visual creatures and we process visuals or patterns quicker than text.”
  • I suspect people know I’m busy because they can see the board. Another project manager made this same observation recently. People don’t have to ask if I’m busy. They can SEE I’m busy.
  • Board discipline can be difficult—especially when you are getting overwhelmed with so many demands. I have to be careful not to let it get behind.
  • We had a situation where the board and a spreadsheet were not in line. While neither were exactly correct, the board was more accurate. In some ways, this didn’t surprise me, I’ve noticed the board is often more accurate than any spreadsheet. I’ve often said, “the board knows all.”
  • Our process can be extremely complex. I would need an entire room to create “In Progress” and “Done” columns. I’ve had to consolidate some of these.
  • The board seems to have become a part of the IT department. It doesn’t get the skepticism it once did. People have come to accept it for what it is and understand that it works. Its not a fad.
  • All in all, I would guess 10% of the people think the board is cool, 10% don’t like it, and the remainder are somewhere in between.

Lessons Learned

  • Sometimes your work can take a different path than the one you have created on the board. This can be frustrating. This is usually due to variation and complexity built into the overall system. You have to learn to roll with these, get creative, and adjust.
  • ALWAYS include the team. When I finished the project, I took a picture of just me with the board. Wrong move. Maybe I worked on it the most. Maybe I championed it the most. Maybe most people didn’t quite get it. But we all used it. I took a picture of all involved later and posted it on our company Yammer page. I was told they appreciated it. I should have had them help me take down the post-its and the board. Opportunity lost.
  • You never know how your work can influence others. The team that assisted me is now using their own visual management board. I was more than happy to help them come up with something. I must keep doing this.
  • Share the wall. I want the team next to me to enjoy the “easier-to-sleep-at-night” feeling when using a visual management tool. That means I will gladly surrender some of the wall (they get half!). I’ve started using OneNote to track things where I don’t have enough wall space. I just put on the wall what management wants to see.
BAU Wall

The team that helped me has started their own visual management system. I love this picture. To see Patty taking so much joy in her work and knowing it helps her better understand her workload might be the project’s biggest accomplishment. I’ll ALWAYS be there for you guys!

Experiments

One experiment is posting on the company’s Yammer page. I’ve been inviting people to share in the experience of using Lean and Kanban concepts. I’m going to sneak Deming in there as well. I have one follower so far. Heh.

WIP Limits

Toward the end of the project I was getting more into experimenting with WIP limits.

My biggest experiment was limiting WIP. It got to the point late in the project where I was pretty much the only one working on the project, so I didn’t have to struggle convincing people to limit their WIP. I just did it. I also realized there was much I didn’t realize about why it was important limiting WIP. Things I learned:

  • Dependencies is a huge problem. In one instance, I have a WIP limit of two. Its full. However, I’m waiting on a dependency before I can move both of them forward. This is very common.
  • Because I am waiting, my instinct is to take on more. But what happens is I soon have so much in progress I can’t remember what all I was working on and the problems of context switching sets in. It takes discipline to limit WIP. Fortunately I didn’t have any outside pressure to increase it otherwise I would have.
  • When I find myself waiting, I go work on something else—for instance—that 30 minute side project someone asked me to complete two weeks ago—I can go work on that now.
  • WIP can mysteriously increase. For instance, I had a team member tell me something they were working on needed my help. Suddenly, my WIP increased by one. About an hour later, something we thought was fixed wasn’t fixed at all. It came back. My WIP increased again. This is a challenge and I’m still figuring out how to handle this.
  • I’ve been increasing and decreasing WIP limits. Because of the external dependencies, you have to try to find a balance. Because of variation, these can shrink and expand regularly. I don’t think one should ever set their WIP limits in stone (unless their system has little variation).
  • I now understand the importance of limiting WIP. Its really quite simple and what I was told in the first place—it reduces context switching. If you reduce context switching, you get more speed. This is a hard concept for folks to grasp. Even me.
  • The tendency to start something else without finishing another is very strong. Especially when you have a line of people wanting something from you now. The problem is, you are actually making them wait longer by starting them early. It might make them feel better that you have started them, but ultimately, you will frustrate them because they have to wait a long time and they will begin to wonder, “WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG?” Best tell them to wait. They will be better off for it. This takes tremendous courage and discipline.
The Last Pic

The board just before I took it down. Post its to the right! All done! Pinks are external dependencies. Those still in progress go to the next project.

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

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