Here is the latest observations, challenges, lessons learned, triumphs, etc. of the Kanban board experiment in my current project.
“I love the post-it notes.” ~A visitor for one of the other teams.
“It’s so pretty!” An interviewee for another team.
“Hey, whatever works.” ~ Our newest project manager (this is a common comment and bothers me for some reason).
“Its actually pretty ingenious.” ~ Our IT director to our visiting global PMO (who were visibly skeptical of the board). This is the first positive comment to come from him about the boards. I love it!
“And here we are investing in tools.” Global PMO member.
“Are we trying to save money?” Global PMO member.
“I have to tell our leadership that the greatest risk to the project is wind.” ~ Our IT director referring to the post-it notes.
- Bottlenecks become more apparent when the time frame is shortened and the work load increases. Ex. I’m the main one updating the board. If others could do it when they complete their work, that would mean I wouldn’t have to do it all the time. At the same time, if I don’t do it, we lose insight into what is happening on the project.
- The boards take up a lot of space (and is actually growing). What if every project used a board like this? Would we have any wall space left? Would we be fighting for wall space?
- As numbers/WIP increased and the pressure to hurry up and finish increased, it became more apparent how much time it takes creating post-it notes. The short-term thinking side of me wanted to stop doing it and just get on with the work, but I reminded myself how the initial time spent creating them paid off in the long term. I was surprised at what feels like my ‘instinct’ telling me not to use the board.
- A pretty big negative for the board is stats gathering. It takes me up to 2 hours gathering the info from the post-it notes and putting it in a spreadsheet for reporting.
- My supervisor didn’t like our process for shipping and scheduling equipment. He wanted us to change it because he thought it was creating bottlenecks. Our team didn’t like the idea. We thought it complicated matters and created a risk. In the end, everyone decided to try an experiment based on what he wanted. The board was updated and after a few hiccups and adjustments, the new way worked just fine. Lesson Learned—Don’t be too resistant to an outsider’s suggestion for changing your process. They might be on to something and you can always try an experiment to see if it works. If not—just go back to the old way. We are fortunate my supervisor simply did not force us to change our process and allowed the experiment.
- For a couple of weeks, it appeared I wasn’t going to be able to bring the board to the new location. I had a team member come up and talk about possibilities of where we could put it. And here I was thinking no one cared. That really meant a lot. In the end, it boiled down to the IT director, who is determined to make the project a success. I told him the board was critical to the project’s success. He agreed there would be a spot for it in the new building.
- I’m attempting to limit WIP (without the team members realizing it). It seems to be working. I’m sure if management knew I was doing it, though, they would get mad.
- I put up a brief synopsis of what Kanban is near the board. My supervisor read it and it sparked some good conversation. I’m hoping others will read it as well. Perhaps I can alter it so its more readable.
- I think I need to stop giving logical explanations for using the board. I’m trying to ‘testify’ instead. The idea is to appeal to a person’s heart, not their head. I’m trying to remember to say things like:
- “Its the best tool I’ve ever used.”
- “It didn’t make much sense to me when I first saw one.”
- “It saves my bacon on a daily basis.”
- “It allows me to sleep at night.” (my favorite)
- Because there is so much WIP, we have tons of issues identified on the board (highlighted with blue post-its). There are so many, its now become noise and I need ANOTHER post-it (white) to identify higher priority items we need to discuss as a team. Having no WIP limits suck!
- Limiting WIP is such a foreign/difficult concept here (though the seeds may have at least been planted). I tried to explain why limiting one of my team mate’s WIP would help her but I was told, “No—just send them all to me.”
- Global PMO visited our office and saw my board. I was happy to see our IT director talk it up (see his comment above). I gave a brief explanation of how the board worked. There seemed to be some skepticism (their comments are above). Its kind of odd to me that a PMO group doesn’t recognize a Kanban board.
- Another project manager asked me about the board. He said he’s struggling with the organization of his project and needs something. I let him borrow my Kanban book and Stop Starting, Start Finishing. He quickly discovered Kanban was being used elsewhere (one of his team members said they used one at Hyundai). I’ve seen him walking around with the Kanban book and he said he wants to sit down and talk with me about it. One of his teammates has been wanting to try Kanban for some time. He even took my class. This gives us a champion on the inside.
- I really wished our partner could see and use the board. I think it would help them tremendously (which would help us). They seem to be so overwhelmed. I know they are in spreadsheet hell. I’ve been thinking about looking into Lean Kit (though I am skeptical of electronic Kanban boards over physical ones). It may be too late to use it for this project, but perhaps we could use it on the next one???