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Visualizing workflow

Limit multi-tasking

Focus on workflow

Continuous improvement

Infographic

Kanban is a ‘light’ agile tool which can be easily incorporated into your project management method to help improve workflow and productivity.

Kanban is just one of many agile tools or approaches which can be used on agile projects. To learn how to incorporate agile approaches and tools when managing agile projects, you should enroll on an Agile Project Management course.

How to visualize workflow

Visualize your work on a board with cards to represent user stories in your product backlog. Use a colour to represent a theme. Place the cards into columns to represent workflow status. As work gets completed, move your cards from left to right.

Key definitions:

Cards

Task cards should include the following information:

  • Colours to represent themes (ie. Red might represent web design tasks while yellow might represent sales).
  • Task priority (from low to high).
  • Name of person to work on the task.
  • Task ID number.
  • An estimate of time required to complete task.

Themes

A theme is a collection of user stories by category. For example:

Theme User story
Web design As an internet user, I want to use a fast website so that I can purchase items quickly.
Web design As an internet user, I want to use a visually appealing website so that my overall experience is enjoyable.

User story

A user story describes a task from the end-users’ perspective. This serves as a quick guide to show your team why they are working on something. It encourages everyone to think in terms of business value rather than technicality.

For example:

As an… I want to.. So that…
Internet user Use a fast website I can purchase items quickly

Product backlog

A product backlog is an organized version of your to-do-list. Each user story includes a list of acceptance criteria that must be done for a task to be called ‘done.’

Your product backlog layout might look something like this:

ID Theme Story Criteria Effort Priority

How to limit multi-tasking

Set WIP progress limits to minimize multi-tasking and ensure cards move smoothly across the board. Fill your ‘TO-DO’ column with high-priority work from your product backlog, replenishing as necessary. If the flow gets blocked, the entire team should stop, collaborate and fix it.

Key definitions:

Work in progress (WIP)

This refers to work you have started but not yet completed

WIP limits

Work in progress limits are the amount of cards you allow in each column of your Kanban board. WIP limits make blockages more visible to everyone on the team so they can be analysed and rectified. It also discourages multitasking and maintains focus.

Blocked/blockages

Bottlenecks or blockages can occur if you are unbale to finish tasks causing a queue of incoming tasks and an interruption to workflow.

How to focus on workflow

Look out for interruptions in workflow and use them as opportunities to improve. Your workflow should run smoothly, not stop and start. Choose some flow metrics to track and analyse them. If your work is flowing smoothly, you know you are creating value.

Key definitions

Workflow/flow

Workflow describes how your cards are moving across the Kanban board. ‘Good’ flow is when your cards are moving smoothly. ‘Bad’ flow is when movement stops and starts.

Flow metrics

The flow metrics you choose to follow are entirely up to you, but here are some good examples:

  • Lead time – How long does it take for a card to move from ‘To-Do’ to ‘DONE’?
  • Cycle time – How long does it take a card to move from ‘DOING’ to ‘DONE’?
  • Number of items not started – are you struggling with the workload?
  • Number of items that are WIP- are you keeping to WIP limits?
  • Blockage areas – do you see any areas where cards build up indicating a bottleneck?

How to enable continuous improvement

Even after implementing Kanban, your work is never truly finished. Part of the Kanban method is to continuously improve your processes. Monitor the way you work and make improvements on an ongoing basis.

Kanban infographic

The following infographic explains how you can employ Kanban to aid your project development.

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