Tag Archives: kanban

Free Kanbans For Everyone!

In my role, I have the pleasure of getting to drive our Agile Enterprise efforts here at Valpak.  We are two years into our Agile transformation within IT and are now broadening our reach to the rest of the company.  We are beginning a never-ending journey to become an Agile Enterprise!  With that in mind, I’m working with our VP of HR and our training development team on an Agile Enterprise training event that will be rolled out to each and every department across the company. The intent of the training event is to educate everyone on the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto and to help them to relate Agile to their everyday lives, work and home.  Included in that training will be how Scrum and Kanban (and even Scrumban) are good techniques to help them along in their Agile journey.  But Kanban is certain to be a big hit.  Already, we’ve got Kanbans popping up left and right from some grassroots efforts underway.  We’ve got Kanbans for personal use, Kanbans for managing projects, Kanbans for structuring programs, Kanbans for process improvements, Kanbans for portfolio management, and Kanbans for organizing the work of a department.  Kanbans are so fun and easy to set up I say “Free Kanbans for everyone!”   I even joke … but, I’m totally serious … I have a home improvement Kanban.  It’s great for explaining how Kanban works.  My only issue is that nothing ever moves out of the backlog. 😦 Damn, I need some new gutters.  Anyhow, I’ve also helped a startup or two establish Kanbans to manage their work … that’s right, lean startup indeed! I’ve also heard of chore board Kanbans.

So, I ask you all … What are some of the crazy, awesome, and interesting Kanbans you’ve seen along the way? Please do share!

My thought is that if everyone with a list would just do a personal Kanban, what an Agile world it would be.  I guess this is a good time to plug an upcoming meetup on the topic of Personal Kanban too:  http://www.meetup.com/tampa-bay-agile/events/169574022/

Free Kanbans for everyone!

Scaled Agile Framework: The Gods Have Spoken

Today marks an important milestone in our Agile transformation here at Valpak.  We put in place the final major piece of Dean Leffingwell’s Scaled Agile Framework , the Architecture Kanban, or what I like to refer to as our Mount Olympus.

Architecture Kanban BoardThe Scaled Agile Framework has served as our goal for scaling Agile across our enterprise.  Even though Agile structures differ greatly from company to company, it’s important to have a common framework to consider for large scaled implementations such as ours.  It wasn’t reasonable or realistic to think that we could implement the entire Scaled Agile Framework in one fell swoop, so we took it in pieces like building blocks throughout the past year.  Even though we had strong top-down support for Agile, we chose to implement the Scaled Agile Framework from the bottom-up by establishing the Agile teams first, back in October 2011.  We currently have 9 Scrum teams and 2 Kanban teams at the Agile teams (bottom) layer of the Scaled Agile Framework.  Shortly after the Agile teams were established, we got smart about road-mapping and release management with the middle layer of the Scaled Agile Framework in mind.  Most recently, we implemented the Portfolio Kanban at the top layer of the Scaled Agile Framework with our leadership team of Executive Sponsors (which this aspect alone deserves a blog post unto itself some day).  Now, we’ve got the Architecture Kanban complete with a Mount Olympus themed board as shown in the pic.  I’ve always joked with the Architects about how they are like the Gods of Mount Olympus throwing the occasional lighting bolts and declaring “The Gods have spoken!”.  Well now, the Gods have spoken and we are well on our way to successfully scaling Agile across the enterprise.

An Agile Light Bulb Moment: Forming Projects Around Teams

It’s great when you have a light bulb moment.  It’s even better when you inspire a light bulb moment in others.

The other day, I had the pleasure of speaking with several managers from another Tampa Bay company about Valpak’s Agile transformation.  I use the word “pleasure” thoughtfully because I genuinely enjoy talking to others about the Agile transformation taking place here at Valpak.  It’s a great story and I love to share it!   Anyhow, apparently how I explained our project initiation process resulted in a light bulb moment for them, or at least that’s what the guy said.  They are moving towards Agile and seeking advice and experiences from other companies having recently transformed.    So, let me explain what I explained to them and you can decide if it’s a light bulb moment.

From whence we came …

Used to be that when a project was initiated, a team would be formed around the project.  In most cases, the team members were already assigned to multiple projects 30% here, 50% there, and so on just waiting for their phase (analysis, design, development, QA, etc.) to start in the waterfall process.  Team members were not necessarily dedicated, just committed.  So, with project plans changing as they do, a team member would typically end up being pulled in multiple directions, reporting to multiple masters, across many projects all at the same time.  From a people perspective, this is not a fun place to be (remember, “multitasking” is the new 4-letter word).  The result was low morale from all the project whiplash going on.

… to where we are now.

Today, under our Agile structure of 8 Scrums and 2 Kanbans, we have naturally experienced a shift in our project initiation process.  Now, when a project is requested, we evaluate the request based on the existing Scrum and Kanban teams and we form the project around the teams.  Sometimes this means breaking up the project to fit the vision and/or skill of the teams.  So, as opposed to forming a team around a project, we are now forming a project around teams.

Let’s take a look at a real world example.  Most recently, we enhanced our Valpak.com website with photo galleries on some of the business profile pages.  This project was ultimately broken down into multiple stories across three teams:

  • One team to upload the photos into our order entry system,
  • One team to store the photos in our content management system, and
  • One team to display the photos on the web page.

While coordination and collaboration across teams can not (and should not) be under-estimated, this beats a team of 30 people working over 6 months in a waterfall process any day.  By forming the project around the teams, team members are able to remain focused and dedicated to their product vision, thus resolving the project whiplash and leading to improved morale.

You may ask, “What if a project is requested that doesn’t fit the vision and/or skill of any of the Scrum or Kanban teams?”  Easy!  It becomes an investment decision.  Is the company willing to invest in a new Scrum and/or Kanban in order to fulfill the request?  This could mean hiring new people to staff new teams and/or pulling people from existing teams to form a new team.  Either way, it’s a leadership decision as to whether to invest in the new idea or impact the investment in an old idea.  In fact, we’ve actually had this happen.  We didn’t start out with 8 Scrums and 2 Kanbans.  Investment decisions were made over time that led us to where we are today.  It’s all about adapting.  It’s indeed Agile!