Padawan´s Series: Scrumban or Agile@Maintenance!

Yes! Getting back to the basics! Yes, I know it is not a brand-new topic but people often ask during my workshops about how to incorporate and adopt agile practices within their Technology maintenance projects.

Although the basic flow is very simple and nowadays everyone says ¨I know everything about Kanban¨ or ¨my team has mastered in using Kanban¨ then I do often realize people over-complicates its usage.

Kanban is Japanese word that translates to signboard in English. It was first developed and adopted by Toyota late in 1940s. It is a simple scheduling and demand management system used to create, support and deliver a set of products and solutions.

What are the initial steps in adopting a Kanban system in maintenance projects?

First, you need to define a basic workflow in reflecting a sequence of steps in producing something and it will be dependent on the work you are doing and the processes used by your organization.

What is a simple set of steps?

Basically, the set of steps should reflect the tasks your team is executing each day. Pretty simple steps as follow:

  • Initial/ To do:
  • In progress
  • To verify/To check
  • Done

How to visualize the work?

You and your team can visualize the work using a physical or a digital board. This visualization board is very effective for the team members within an organization, program or project that are using a kanban system.

You can stick a card or a post-it note and move them manually per the flow or use a digital solution depending on your needs. It is a special need for non-collocated teams or teams that may support more than one customer at the same time.

Today there are exceptional tools you can use such as:

or just use a physical board if your team is 100% collocated!

Now you have a workflow, a board system. What is next?

A key success factor in a kanban system is about determining priority and WIP (Work in Progress). There is a need to define a method of priority setting to guarantee that the most important tasks will be carried our first or as soon as possible.

On a kanban board the most important task cards or post-it notes are placed higher up the board and maybe with a color system that helps highlight the top items.

The priorities can be defined by one person such as a product owner, one experienced team member on the product or by a self-organizing team.

It is very important to establish work in progress limits. It does allow individuals applying this “pull system” to manage the level of multitasking.

Please notice:  A multitasking team may end up with concurrent activities that may impact the effectiveness of the work which means that an incomplete item should never be moved to a next step of the flow. Focused teams produce high quality products/solutions.

“Scrumban” or whatever name you want to use: How to get better to improve the process flow?

Now you have the demands organized per your flow and you can visualize them in the board. As time goes on, you will find ways to improve the way you and your team work. You can use daily stand up meetings to address and remove blockers as well promote team’s collaboration.

Prior to a planning discussion and after 2 or 3 weeks, in a fixed time box period, you may have a retrospective meeting to find out how to improve the current process.

As demands go up and down you can discuss about the WIP limits and the team may decide if there is need to adjust the limit. This approach can be adapted per your needs in supporting the business, program, project and organizations.

I want to hear your opinion!

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