How did Kanban make the team & me progressive?

Excel for everything

In the early years (around 2008) of my work, many PMs adopt excel or google sheet for task and progress tracking. In software development, the PM breaks the project into smaller modules and assign each module to a different coder. Undeniably, Google Sheets has done its job pretty well on keeping everyone on the same page, and the progress. Since excel or Google Sheets has a positive reputation, and people started to expand its usage to others, for eg. project spec documentation, Gantt chart for timeline, UI prototyping, test case tracking, almost anything we can imagine. Seen a company even build their operation & account system into excel. Why not, right? Erm…

What is the Kanban

Kanban is a framework that was first introduced by Toyota. Toyota used a visual board with three columns: Requested, In Progress, Done. This allowed Toyota to allocate resources better when there was a bottleneck in some areas in the production line.

Fast forward today, the tech industry adopted Kanban for product development.

How Kanban had helped

Help to focus on what’s really matters

In the early days, I used Kanban to keep track of my personal tasks, realising the Todo list is not the right tool for that. After enjoying the benefits of it, I shift towards a more collaborative mindset that keeping all the members on the same page and priorities are better than being productive alone. This is the starting point of I intro Kanban to my team members.

Estimation is the hardest skill of project/product management. So instead of focusing on timeline and resources estimation, we focus on the get right thing done. Sometimes get the right thing done is extremely hard in terms of effort and time especially, since the team bears different expectations from various parties. That’s why prioritisation is the key skill to this, and with the Kanban board, it’s easy to prioritise and check for the tasks dependencies in between, so the team has sufficient focus on the In Progress lane.

Estimation of 99% accuracy is hard, accept it and move on.

Personally, against punishment on off-estimation tasks and start focusing on getting the right thing done and delivering values.

A side story of estimation
Admit I did lots of mistakes and estimations, especially underestimate the project with talents, apologize for the mistakes I made that costs your personal time. That’s why estimation stays as estimation, not reality check or final call to the specifications or due date.

Better production flow

Once you’re familiar with Kanban and the production flow, you will notice patterns emerge, like which part usually has a blocker, dependency. which issues required more attention and discussion. With more retro and review, the team is on the track to improve the process.

Trust & love the process & people.

With all that in place, we may create positive reinforcement for the team, to move further, some claim punishment is more effective, well that’s another story, personally, I lean towards positive reinforcement.

A side story of flow
Experienced in a “startup” team that has no flow, meaning everything is done via Google meet, Whatsapp, Verbal. They claimed they trust their people and imagine in each Google meet session holds at least 9 people, it’s like kickboxing with 9 contestants verbally punching each other for 1 hour. Recall when I ask the PM about flow and doc, the answer I get is

“we’re an agile startup, doc & flow are slow, that’s why it’s not favourable here.”

My inner feeling

If the PM sees this post, bet denial will follow after. Well, your direct customers‘ feedback matters, right?

Kanban Tools

Basecamp

Indeed my early day project management tool with the agencies, the tool was ok and it solves some pain points but it couldn’t solve the human behaviours of flip flop decisions, unclear direction or deadlines oriented.

Trello

One of the early kanban tools appears on my radar and stick with it for years. Trello is park under Atlassian now and ramping up its pricing and product strategy, guess more to come later.

Jira

If you’re in the Atlassian universe, then Jira is the right choice for you, it's well integrated with Bitbucket and other Atlassian products.

Others

Feel free to check:

Wrap Up

See other teams are using Kanban as a team knowledge centre or reference repo, well nothing wrong with that, but Kanban has better to offer more than a reference repo, plus there are better tools for team knowledge centre.

Certainly, Kanban had helped us navigate through complex products and juggling between various developments at the same time. Hope kanban helps you too. Let’s march towards better product or product management and the people no longer suffer from the poor product.

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