ARG Katherine Pryor Returns With a Team Kanban Update

Three New Kanbans

As part of the 2018 corporate initiatives, an electronic version of Kanban is rolling out on a team basis. The first team to use it in 2017 was the IT/Support Team. We learned in December that it had been a success for them and allowed them to not only increase productivity but also celebrate it since their documented accomplishments were easily accessible. One manager noted that he did not have to wonder what his team was working on – if they were busy enough or drowning – because all of the tasks were on the board with the current status.

This year has seen the roll-out to the Project Assistant team which consists of three highly organized, efficient, and busy team members. They support all of the project management team, are resources for other teams within the company, and are participating in a newly rolled out career development program. These three have a lot going which makes their adoption of Kanban as a tool even more exciting.

Earlier in the week, I asked them a series of questions related to their use of Kanban. Firstly, they are all using an electronic version of Kanban. In looking at the three, though they are all part of the same system, each board is customized to meet the style and organizational preferences of the users. I thought this was important in determining long-term user acceptance, if a system does not allow for any customization, one might not feel that the board is theirs then may not fully adopt it making it an inefficient productivity tool.

The first question was what type of system was previously used for task management. All three utilized the Google calendar reminder function as well as some sort of paper to-do list whether by using sticky notes or notebook for lists. One noted that she also used her email inbox as a to-do list – if an item is in the inbox it is outstanding, once completed it is filed. She noted that this may not be a sustainable method but had been meeting her needs prior to starting with Kanban.

Next, I asked how their boards were set up. These answers were individualized and ranged from having two columns, “to-do” and “done,” to having four to five columns that showed long-term and short-term to-do items as well as those items currently in progress. As they are using their boards, they are tweaking to make it fit their needs and help them maintain a sense of overall organization and task management.

Lastly, I asked about early successes and challenges with the boards. One mentioned that it helps her maintain visibility into tasks that take several days to complete which can be easy to forget if not written down. There were also challenges similar to the ones I have experienced in not knowing yet which tasks to record on the board.

Overall, each of us sees the value in using a tool such as the Kanban and understands that incorporating any new tool takes some time. I’m looking forward to checking in with the PA team from time to time to see how they are getting on with the board and getting some pointers for successful implementation.

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