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Visualizing the development flow

The Kanban board is a simple and powerful tool for understanding your actual development flow.

This video describes a Feature Kanban, but the same principles apply to any Kanban. It is essential to do the Kanban right; otherwise, it will not present accurate and crucial data that may drive improvement.

The video also covers some basics about the content of a Product backlog.

Visualizing flow

A Kanban board is the best way to visualize and understand a Product Development Flow. While a Kanban board can be used in any flow, on any level, and for any items, it is essential to have a consistent design and disciplined management. The board should reflect the actual work with significant work steps in columns that make it possible to follow items as they evolve through the flow.

Using a Kanban board in a large-scale Lean-Agile setup is excellent, as in the description of the Program Kanban of the Scaled Agile Framework. In a setup of multiple teams, the highest interest is to manage the Features flow and create alignment between stakeholders and teams. The Kanban board will provide a snapshot of the current status, for example, that a Feature is currently being implemented.

Agile at scale

Many organizations have introduced the Scaled Agile Framework and plan for Program Increments, PIs, which are around ten weeks. It’s suggested that a Feature should be done within one PI. But it’s hard to finalize a Feature in such a short time, and your organization may still need to have that capability. Instead of one PI, the actual delivery time of a Feature could be three PIs. In the first PI, the design is done; in the next, all development and in the third PI, the Feature passes final testing and is deployed to production.

Falling back to Activity-based planning, it is common to break down Features into activities and then to put the activities as items in the backlog and as cards on the Kanban board. But what is the effect when visualizing the flow by moving activities? The risk is that your Kanban gets flooded by work items, and the actual flow of value is bleary.

Splitting Features into activities

Showing the actual flow

A better alternative is to extend the Kanban board with additional columns. Instead of having the activities as cards, it is more beneficial to let a column represent all significant steps. Make the headings general to match the work of any Feature. Now the Kanban board displays the workings of your development process and makes it possible to monitor the progress.

When what you do, is consistently written as headings, and what you want is consistently written as cards; it is much easier to understand and maintain the board.
With a Kanban board done right, you may measure lead time and other valuable metrics to help your organization improve.

Don’t worry when you cannot deliver Features as fast as being spelled out in books and frameworks. Only some organizations have this capability. Being honest and putting actual deliverables on the Kanban board is more important. In the end, transparency is the critical element to help succeed in delivering Features in less time.

Kanban done right

About the content

The intention of the Articles published on this website is to provide exciting knowledge about organizational development in any business. BDD hopes this knowledge will help take your organization to the next level. The information is based on our experience supporting many transformations and cutting-edge sources published in books, articles, and frameworks.

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