Drive Productivity by Limiting Work in Progress

March 28, 2014 — 1 Comment

iKanbanAlex Kress, has recently posted about an article which took a team that did not adjust well to Scrum and moved it to Kanban. This article brought me back to my own experiences with Kanban.

Kanban software development focuses on continuous delivery and drives high efficiency by limiting how much work can be done at once.

Back in 2012 I read Kanban after attending a session on the topic at a DevTeach conference in Montreal. The speaker took me by surprise and showed me that it was possible to raise morale and efficiency at the same time.

Since then, teams where I used Kanban have been successful because it empowered team members to take responsibility for the work in progress (WIP). It has been good at helping us resolve of issues that would be forgotten or left behind. Keep in mind that pushing back blocked issues often results in additional technical debt.

Kanban has also helped keep things moving when team members are sick or on vacation. Whenever the situation arose, team members were able to pull work from the board or request the next most important features from the project managers. Consequently, team moral was uplifted by the fact that everything was visible on our physical board. Limiting the work in progress (WIP) greatly reduced task switching (which is deadly for productivity) and helped keep our team focused on delivering quality.

I found that using a physical board encouraged team interaction and gave team members a clear idea of where we stood in terms of progress. I also observed that it was crucial that someone kept an eye on the inbound queue and pulled for more work when it got low. Keeping the flow going is just as important as introducing slack so that team members don’t get exhausted.

It’s not a race, it’s a marathon.

We were a team that finally worked as a team! Identifying and removing blocking issues from the work in progress (WIP) became everyone’s focus. Our communication improved and knowledge was shared. This resulted in more contributions from everyone on the team.

Seeing tickets make their way across the board helped everyone communicate. Our team was happy and efficient. Quality rose and defects disappeared from our backlog.

Kanban isn’t the magical solution, but it probably won’t hurt your team.

Take a moment to read “So Long Scrum, Hello Kanban”.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Reading Notes 2014-04-07 | Matricis - April 7, 2014

    […] Drive Productivity by Limiting Work in Progress – Interesting reading suggestion. […]


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