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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Visualize Everything

Kanban board

One of Kanban rules is visualization. This is one I like the most since I just can’t sit at ease next the the clear whiteboard. I have that urge to grab a marker, a bunch of sticky notes and make the board a little less white.

Anyway, visualization isn’t the concept unique for Kanban (what is after all?) and recently you probably hear about it very often. It was one of returning messages across this year’s ACE Conference and it was very similar at GOTO CopenhagenDave Thomas pointed it as one of key factors of successful teams. And then of course there was all-day long Kanban track which, as you may guess, was covering visualization over and over again.

So the message is: visualize it! Show what you’re doing on the board. Make it visible for everyone in the team. Make it visible so everyone knows what’s happening. Make it visible so it’s hard to ignore that, especially when things go wrong.

We are inevitably heading toward the question: what “it” is?

Well, “it” is pretty much anything. Because it’s not just “visualize it” – it’s “visualize everything.”

Stages of your process? Checked. Limits? Checked. Who does what? Checked. Blockers? Checked. Cycle time? Checked. Priority? Checked. Area or module of a project? Checked. Emergency state? Checked. And this is only the beginning. These are actually the most obvious examples. Add to your sticky notes any information a team will need. Put it on the board. Visualize it! It is a way of communication. And the one which isn’t intrusive.

It may sound a bit counterintuitive but it works miracles. My recent playground is project portfolio level Kanban and the interesting observation I’ve made already is how the board helps me every time I need to plan new projects or make a tradeoff to respond to changing situation. It even tells me when I need more people faster than our budgeting software, which we typically use for this purpose.

The reason is simple: visualization just works. So go, visualize everything!

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in: communication, kanban

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