Get on Board

File this under, “Getting Started with Visual Management.”

I was at a customer site the other day as they had expressed interest in learning more about the metrics and reporting capabilities available in LeanKit.

As we were looking at their board I was struck by the sheer number of cards showing work in progress. Many of them had due dates assigned too. All of them in the past. Odd.

As we dug in they shared that:

  • Due dates – despite their best intentions – were turning out to be more of a suggestion than a requirement
  • They weren’t paying attention to WIP limits either. At all. (Hence the number of cards on the board).
  • Expedited/unplanned work never got reflected on their boards. It just got “handled.”

All of which led to a discussion about what they were expecting to achieve by tracking metrics. If the data on the board wasn’t “real” – the metrics wouldn’t be either. No real sense analyzing them. Yet…

A good reminder that when starting out with visual management, keep it simple.

One of the initial benefits of adopting visual management is that it forces you to lay out your process. That’s the first step. It’s amazing how many different impressions of what actually happens within an organization exist. Describing them in a visible and transparent way exposes assumptions and draws out opinions.

Next, you can visualize all your work; see it flowing through the system. It seems like a small thing – but it can be absolutely transformative. But this is only effective if you really (1) put all your work on a board that, (2) accurately reflects your process.

These first steps don’t require you to do anything differently. It just makes evident what is really happening – IF YOU DO THEM.

Many customers find just this part of the process to be a huge win.

Limit your WIP, monitor metrics, optimize your process, speed your delivery. Yes. Do that when the time’s right. When you have a good handle on your process, you can see ALL your work and you’re ready to look at incremental ways to improve.

Keep it simple – just get your work on the board. Everything else flows from that.