Andy Pols CTO, Entrepreneur

Poor Mans Kanban

David Anderson gave a talk about kanban at XTC a few weeks ago (11th March 2008). David’s pictures of projects using kanban struck a chord with me.

My current project is split across multiple locations (well, countries!) and we keep track of what we are doing in Jira. Jira is great for tracking and chunking work into releases, but it wasn’t highlighting our process bottlenecks. We’d been caught out a couple of times by juggling multiple streams of work and having too much work building up in UAT.

I emailed David’s slides around the team and asked people if they thought the kanban view of the project would be helpful. The technical people thought it was a great idea, but the business people couldn’t see the point - they already had this information to hand and did not think it would be worth the effort.

One of the guys (Paul Allton) did a little experiment using ruby to automatically create a kanban work-in-progress view of our existing jira data. It’s gone through a few iterations, but this is what it looks like now:

Taking the kanban picture to the standup was fascinating. The people who thought it was unnecessary suddenly became animated about the bottlenecks. This picture makes it very easy to see the state of the project and where people need to spend their energy.

The poor man’s kanban (because we’re not really doing kanban, and it would be much better if we had a physical board) has proved very popular with the team.

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