Starting A Process of Improvement

In last weeks podcast I asked Troy Tuttle a question on how does someone get started with process improvement and he responded:

Troy Tuttle: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’m going to give you kind of my Anderson’s Kanban or the David Anderson’s version of Kanban answer where really the context of that, of wherever you’re operating, whichever organization you’re operating and really kind of determines that and many organizations do have maybe traditional scoping documents, project chartering and if that’s what you work with, then I say continue with that and then think about ways to improve those practices along the way. Right, so that it’s more of an evolutionary process of improvement.

One thing that I do like to introduce to organizations, outside usually when people say “Well, my team’s doing Kanban,” or “these teams are doing or Scrum or a hybrid of the two” that discussion stops at the boundary of the team. What happens in front of that team is kind of what you’re asking about right, like “We have a new product idea that we’d like to bring in the market. How do we manage that kind of work before the actual implementation team starts to dig into that?” I have two primary vehicles or mechanisms I like to use. One is a portfolio view; some people call them portfolio Kanban boards so that the organization has a view of everything they’re doing from a portfolio perspective. And then, along with that they have some kind of reoccurring meeting, you know, once a week where all those stakeholders that care about that view get together and make decisions around that in a visual way, so visual, using visual management.

Joe: Would that be the same as a product roadmap?

Troy: Well, it could be. I’m not real prescriptive about that thing. The key for me is two important things. Well, at least to a third, right, is no matter how you do it is it needs to be visual, and some people take that as “Well, we need to get that up in a physical thing.” And, if that’s what you need to do then that’s okay. If you’re not co-located, you might have to have a digital tool that facilitates that but the number one thing is to make a visual model of that product.

If it’s a roadmap or just a representation of where things are at, at this point at this company, right, is to have a visual model for people that make decisions to help them make decisions. Because, once you make that visual model, people have a much different understanding of where these different things are at and what we need to be focusing on then if it’s not visual. If you want to call that a roadmap or put it in more of a roadmap form, I’m okay with that.

A second thing is; an important thing at the company level is limiting WIP. I have yet to encounter an organization that isn’t doing trying to do too many things at one time, trying to do, you know, do more than they are able to do at a constraint level, right. And, having a conversation about WIP limits at a very high level so that those hard decisions about ‘do we do this or this’ happens sooner than later, instead of saying ‘Yeah, we’re going to do both of these things’ and continuing to struggle with too much work in progress.

About: Troy Tuttle, KCP, is the owner and a principal consultant at KanFlow. He is a practicing Agile software developer and Lean-Agile-Kanban coach to software teams, project managers and executives.

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