I’ve always been a big fan of visualization. This comes in many forms, such as the slides of my presentations, the usage of whiteboards during workshops and the visualization of process flow in my teams.
In agile teams, we rely heavily of process visualization. We need to be able to see what we are doing, so that we can react early if things are slipping.
So far, the one ‘Must Have’ I had, was a wall on which we could visualize our process. By drawing swimlanes, post-its which represent work items, colors to indicate types, etc.
I had not seen an application that worked as efficiently as a physical task board which was there all the time, right in your face. If a customer required us to use a tool, we used both. One physical board for the team and one electronic board that was kept in sync by a volunteer (which in most cases was me).
Since I started with Kanban over a year ago, I noticed my ideals started to shift. Suddenly a tool made more sense to me. This is why:
- We were measuring flow, which required extra administration keeping track of timestamps when work moved through our workflow.
- More people were involved in the Kanban flow, because we were treating a piece of work from customer request until delivery. This made our teams bigger and they were almost never co-located.
- It is sometimes easier to see flow issues in a tool, than on a physical board, because of the uniform layout and extra historical information that is stored in the system.
- We needed another type of progress visualization. A burndown chart was no longer useful. We needed cumulative flow diagrams, SPC charts, etc. These are quite hard to make and update on a flip chart.
But I’ll confess to you honestly. I don’t like the feeling of being pushed towards electronic tracking. How do we replace the ‘in your face’ power of information radiators? I don’t want our walls to be packed with TV’s. It’s sad enough already that we spend most of our time behind a computer screen each day.
Do you feel the same shift happening? How do you cope with these challenges?
Will the success of Kanban bring a boost in the tool vendor business?