Kanban: The Journey Begins
Working in a team of system-engineers can get pretty chaotic. Mostly because there are always several projects running at the same time. This is mainly due to the fact that a lot of parts of projects in system-engineering involve waiting. Waiting while installations are being done, waiting for a supplier to deliver a new piece of hardware, … And to fill those “waiting”-phases you simply start to work on something else, until that goes into a “waiting”-phase, and so on and so on. Resulting in an incoherent cloud of unfinished projects waiting for who-knows-what.
So to get a better grip on these projects I first tried to sum up all the problems with the current “project system”.
- Several projects running at the same time
- Bad communication between team members about what everyone is doing
- Projects are intertwined. One project can require another project to be finished to go on
- Project chains cause you to lose track of the initial reason you started the projects
- Projects fall into oblivion in the “finishing”-phase resulting in the lack of follow-up and documentation
After seeing a SCRUM task board I really liked the idea of a physical whiteboard to visualize the flow of a project. The entire SCRUM system would not really work for a system-engineer team since it seems to focus on a single project, which is not the case in system-engineering.
Looking closer into “whiteboard-solutions” I soon found Kanban.
Kanban was invented to implement just-in-time management in a manufacturing logistics chain by keeping track of the stock in every step of the production chain using a big board. After minor alteration this system soon found its way to the world of software-development and project-management.
When you look-up Kanban for software development and project management you will get several different approaches. The reason for this variety of approaches to Kanban is because you should adjust Kanban so it works for you, not the other way around.
For me Kanban has to focus on a few core parts:
- Visualisation: use the board to visualise your projects in the flow
- Collaboration: everyone should know how everything is doing and who is doing what.
- Work Limit Control: make sure you don’t have more on your plate then you can handle
- Flow Control: keep track of each step a project needs to take before it’s completion and make sure it does not miss any steps
When these four “simple” parts are implemented I believe all summed up problems could be solved.
How the journey begins
The most important step of implementing a new project-management-system is making sure everyone is on the same page.
Make sure the team understands the new system and is willing to start using it. If you don’t have your entire team willing to go for it you should just start looking for another system (or get rid of the guy that does not want to play along * evilgrin*).
Once you got your entire team excited about the plan you can start with the next steps.