Kanban Board is a living organism

Establishing the first ever kanban board is a memorable event in team’s life. We discuss a lot to find the best-ever-solution-for-now-and-for-always, which then changes in… two weeks time.

Good, fair enough, at least we know our process flow. Which then changes in… a month.

Let’s discuss the work in progress limits. “Two”, “why two”? “Maybe one”? “Or three”? “Can we take any decision?” (which very soon will be challenged over and over).

It seems like the only positive aspect of our situation is having white board and removable markers and stickers.

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I cannot imagine right now managing the environment that would change so often – without Kanban.

Once put in life environment, kanban board will naturally refuse being forgotten or abandoned. I had a situation of a team movement when we didn’t have access to white board temporarily. I asked the team to use electronic tools for a time being. Instead they created “board” on a partition wall between desks, so that we could continue working.

The team is evolving and changing. It splits and comes together again. There is small revolution every month, very far from evolutionary approach we think about, when “kanban” word appears. With each and every change the board evolves with us. We make mistakes, we take completely missed decisions and try ridiculous ideas – because we can.

What may sound a bit heretical – kanban is kind of a static and solid anchor, which keeps us together. No storm can destroy the team boat: we see, what is going on; we know, when we are blocked; we know for how long; we know, when we move and how fast. That gives the comfort of stability in a rapidly changing environment.

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Few practical words about living kanban board.

1. When firstly created board (together with correctly visualized flow and assessed work in progress limits) does not reflect the current state, the steps you need to take are:

  • discussing the new approach with the team
  • changing the policies – if needed
  • redesigning the board (sticky tapes saved us few times already)

2. Avoid creating the perfect board on the first meeting. It will change sooner than you think.

3. Maybe just avoid being perfect. You have tapes, sticky notes and removable markers eventually.

4. Ask regularly, if your team is happy with the board. Listen to their opinion, try new ideas. Even if they sound really strange or ridiculous, remember – it’s not stone, you can always change it.

5. React, if you notice that the board does not reflect reality.

6. Have some fun. The board is yours, you will look at it every day and you will work with it every day. Not your manager, not your Agile Coach (no matter how much you love them). Satisfy yourself and the team with the board you create together. What is more, probably very soon you will find in your team natural born designer. Just let him/her release the creativity.

What else would you add?

Ania