The Ultimate Kanban Series – An Introduction

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About me

I have been working as a project manager for avarteq and anynines for about four years now. My responsibilities include the communication with customers, process control and structuring as well as the uniting of interests of the customer and our development teams.

We have been using the Kanban system in all of our projects and since 2015, I took over the role of the Kanban representative, trainer and I’m the contact person of all Kanban issues for the colleagues and customers.

What is Kanban?

The word ‘Kanban’ is Japanese and originally means ‘signal card’.
The Kanban process is originally a technique from the Toyota Production System (assembly line).
Kanban belongs to the pull systems and is used to control the workflow of the resources. In the IT sector, Kanban has been raised to an evolutionary change management for IT organizations. It is associated with high acceptance of incremental changes of all stakeholders.

How we introduced the Kanban system in our company

Kanban 1.0

In 2012 Kanban has been introduced in the avarteq within a very critical project.
In this project, three employees have learned the process step by step and implemented the mediated theory into practice.

First step: visualize your workflow.

With this simple and effective first step, the team was shown the problems of the project and – with feasible action – the bottlenecks were eliminated.
Kanban can be used at any time, regardless of the project progress. The process sets up where the current status of the project is.

In the following weeks, the team achieved continuous knowledge acquisition about the Kanban process and the related rules and dependencies.

With the deeper understanding of the Kanban process, the team was able to quickly and consistently achieve success.

The acquisition of knowledge was carried out in the first project by weekly trainings with one of our CEOs – Julian Fischer – and by the parallel reading of the Kanban book from David J. Anderson. We retain this method until today and we optimize it continuously.

With the deeper understanding of the Kanban process, the team was able to quickly and consistently achieve success and transported the experiences by means of an established workflow into the entire company, so that the process could expand.

Today, the Kanban process is one of our key strategy values. This was accomplished by the involvement of all employees. They have contributed to built and optimize the strategy value and established them in the company.

Milestone – Kanban 1.0:

Introduction and establishment of the Kanban process in all projects and creation of  a value for our company strategy.

Kanban 2.0

In summer 2014, every employee began to give presentations of each chapter and record it on video for internal training purposes.

In the presentations many practical issues were presented from the daily business. We have taken the time to discuss and learn from the problems and mistakes of the colleagues and to further optimize the existing workflow(s).
This has given us the opportunity to gain insight into further projects and we realized, that everyone had different difficulties with the establishment of the Kanban process, e.g. with the customer himself.

Explaining the rules of the system to our customers we managed to include them into the process of continuous improvement which enabled us to accelerate our workflow.
There was always the opportunity to learn from each other, as we integrated the customer successfully into the process or managed the handling of a bottleneck. Usually there is only one bottleneck at a time but there could exist exceptions with a sequence of bottlenecks. As to be seen in the ‘Theory of Constraints’.

Perhaps you wonder why all the effort?

The recorded videos during the lectures can facilitate access to the system for new employees and thus grant a faster insight into the process.

Kanban became a fixed part of the company and everyone of us has internalized the Kanban knowledge and can explain the knowledge to new colleagues without a book or notes. We created a pool of knowledge in which we mutually seek advice and share experience.

Milestone – Kanban 2.0:

Built the internal Kanban training and production of content.

Kanban 3.0

After Kanban 2.0, there will be Kanban 3.0.

After we have integrated Kanban with its general rules and adjustments, optimizations for our projects and workflow, we must constantly adapt to new circumstances.
This means that we continuously adapt the Kanban process, measure and need to optimize.
For this, we want to use the foundation and structure of the LEAN principle (build-measure-learn) in the future.

Following some ideas taken from Eric Ries’ book ‘Lean Startup’ will help us to focus the details. This includes to generate a hypothesis  (build), to observe these and test (measure) and afterwards to optimize the hypothesis with all empirical values (learn).

This principle can be applied to the Kanban process because Kanban is a part of LEAN.

To optimize the workflow relating to the LEAN principle it is very important to use metrics of various Kanban tools that show bottlenecks, lead time and consequences of the existing WIP etc. .
Thereto we will give you detailed information in the following Kanban series.

The given metrics help us to derive optimization and to improve the process continuously.

In Kanban 3.0 we will focus on the optimization and continuous improvement.

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How we use Kanban today and what will come?

With all the generated experiences and positive influences on project implementation in the recent years, we have divided Kanban into three steps for us :

  • visualization
  • measurement
  • optimization

Each of these steps is significant and builds on each other.

To remember, internalize and also to train new employees, I have created a personal Kanban Cheat Sheet for our company.

In the next few blog posts about Kanban we will discuss in detail on any aspect of the methodologies, but in advance we want to show you in the next blog post our Kanban Cheat sheet and explain more details and facts.

Stay tuned.

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