Enterprise Kanban Part 1

I’ve been meaning to write about for a while about my first serious use of “Kanban”* and what’s more, it’s a usage outside of the standard patterns we hear about, mainly programming. I was working for a high-end niche consultancy to a global corporation doing an assessment and some pattern harvesting that had an extremely tight deadline. We had a small team (me and two other people) who were all highly trained and proficient, but there was one problem – the deadline, planning and tracking of our activities. We also needed a “process” that was not a Process – enter Kanban!

It just felt intuitively right – even though I’d never “seriously” used it. I had played around with Personal Kanban and I sensed that if we used no process (ie CMM1 / Ad Hoc) then near the end we’d find out we forgot things or didn’t adequately cover some risks, some of which would manifest and it would all end in tears. None of us wanted that, so I proposed to my colleagues that we use Kanban – freely admitting that I hadn’t used it fully, but that I was a Certified Scrum Master and had “Agile” experience of over 10 years. I added that we’d be doing weekly retrospectives and that if they thought it was not an effective use of our time, then we could just stop using it. On that basis I had agreement and some buy in, but we’ll get to that later…

To start off with, we did a brainstorming session for an hour, went back to work (we had no time to waste and knew initially what to do) then spent an hour at the end of the day making a Kanban


I’ve obviously had to blank out some information for confidentiality, but hopefully this is readable enough to show our thoughts, process and the fact that this was a very high level, i.e. typical EA, piece of work. One thing to note is that at the top we had “BACKLOG” but realised that we were existing within a Project Managed environment, so we had to have some sort of plan which we of course did with sticky notes ;-) Our Project Manager (who had about 5 other streams of work going on overall) was very happy as we had not only given him a realistic plan, but if he or anyone else who was interested wanted to know what we were really doing, it was all there at any time.

Also, you can see that on the right, we have a fairly typical Kanban / Scrum board and in the left is an open area where we started to group things which we’d eventually put in to the backlog. Again, the emphasis was on spending a minimum amount of time to structure and track the things that were important initially, knowing that we’d be tidying this up within a week. You can also see a bunch of stickies in the bottom left. These were things that had come out of our brainstorm, but were not currently important and that we did not have time to properly analyse and group. If you look carefully, there is a task in stalled for me to arrange sorting these out.

EntKanban-1-risksWith that, we were off and running, with a plan which “the management” was happy with and enough structure to know what to do once we had contacted the right people in the right countries, for the information we needed. We monitored this using a spreadsheet as it was a simple process, would not take long and proved useful to show which countries were responding and in scope and which were not. And as you can see above, we also had an IRA log with sticky notes :-)

* Note: I’ve said “Kanban” as in the time since, I’ve realised there was a lot of things we didn’t do, more on that in the Meta Retrospective



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