How We Increased Our Productivity By 250%
Are you always short on time and budget, even though your team is motivated and skilled? Do you struggle to keep up with ever-changing demands from your clients? Do you often find yourself being unable to deliver on your commitments? We know these feelings because we’ve been there. This is the story of how our team at Nave turned our Kanban process around and increased our productivity by 250%.
In a fast-paced environment, clients want results yesterday – it’s easy for every request to feel like an emergency. Too many emergencies mean lower priority tasks are neglected, decreasing overall productivity. We struggled with this effect, always striving to go the extra mile to exceed client expectations. We introduced Classes of Service in our process – rule-breaking emergency tasks were limited to one at a time.
Breaking the cycle of flow debt
We knew we had bottlenecks within our process – but what was the cause? Our first step was to examine our Aging chart. The Aging chart shows the age of tasks that are still in progress, whereas the Cycle time scatterplot shows the cycle time of completed tasks. Tasks in progress that are older than the cycle time on the 70th percentile are likely to be holding up your process – the older the tasks, the bigger the chance of delay.
From looking at our Cycle time scatterplot, we knew plenty of tasks were getting delivered in a predictable manner. The Aging chart, however, showed us that our fast cycle times were lying to us. We had a clear bottleneck in the Testing state – we didn’t have the capacity to handle the upstream workload. Our QA guys were always picking up small, fast tasks in order to release work faster. Some of the older tasks that were too heavy or complex aged even further. This approach was generating large amounts of flow debt.
WE UNCOVER THE EFFICIENCY OF YOUR WORKFLOW
Optimise your performance with Kanban analyticsSee a dashboard with your data
We had to complete the oldest tasks to get back on track. This generated even more frustration. Developers had a lot of re-work due to merge conflicts. QAs were constantly reporting severe regression effects. Once the old tasks got completed, the problem revealed itself right away in our Cycle time scatterplot – our average cycle time increased dramatically. The management thought the project had span out of control. But it hadn’t. That was the cost of the huge flow debt. We paid it off, learnt the hard lesson and decided we’d never let this happen again.
Setting explicit pull policies
In order to stop flow dept from building up again, we had to introduce pull policies for every process state. It was essential that our team works on tasks on a first come, first served basis. Every task that goes to the next process state is placed at the bottom of the column. Once the team has the capacity to handle new work, they pull in the task at the top of the previous column. Tasks were no longer delayed or abandoned because each work item was processed in the order it arrived – regardless of its difficulty, size or priority.
This does not mean that we stopped prioritising our tasks. Prioritising is very important when trying to decide which task should be the next one to be pulled in to the process. However, prioritisation takes place and Classes of Service are assigned when items are added to the To Do list. Once the team has pulled a task into the process and committed to the item, the priority is no longer taken into account, and tasks are dealt with in the order that they arrived to the process state.
With Kanban, you can see the results of your changes immediately. We first saw the difference in our cycle time scatterplot – our cycle time was 250% faster than the yearly average cycle time. After some time we started to see the long term impact of our changes.
Our Cumulative flow diagram showed smooth, inclining bands rather than flat areas and sharp jumps. With flow debt eliminated, our process became consistent and predictable. This helped us increase the accuracy of our estimates. Lastly, as a team we felt happier, more motivated and in control of our process.
Kanban dashboards for Trello make the bottlenecks and problems holding up your process easier to find and eliminate. You don’t need big changes to see big results – something as small as changing a pull policy can increase your productivity by 250%. The trick is to pay attention to your efficiency and apply small continuous improvements.
Do you use Kanban in your process? How do you assess your productivity? What problem areas did you discover?Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is an independent consultant who helps organisations deliver successful projects as a Product Manager and Agile Coach. She is a proud mother of a daughter and a son, and enjoys good food and heavyweight boxing championships. Sonya is a regular blogger and founder at Nave.
Product teams often argue which is better, but the focus should be on how to merge Kanban and Scrum together to del… https://t.co/73wN6TLBjGFollow
Many project managers appreciate the benefits of Kanban, but don’t know how best to prioritise tasks. Learn how Kan… https://t.co/QncgNAWzq1Follow
When implementing Kanban, it can be difficult to know how much work has been done, and how well your team is perfor… https://t.co/4vfoeUrQ7WFollow
Find out how maintaining a Kanban pull system and using analytics to spot bottlenecks early, prevents project delay… https://t.co/7lXXwEA2u1Follow
Once your tools start getting blunt, it's time to inspect and sharpen them. Value stream mapping is a visual techni… https://t.co/N6b0RzROn2Follow
Predicting how long a task will take plagues project managers everywhere. Kanban cycle time is an easy way to work… https://t.co/EXcLqbMtRAFollow
Though it's easy to focus on less complex tasks first, neglecting work in progress can put your team at immense ris… https://t.co/4QIKnr9YyUFollow
In this infographic, we’ll be explaining how to identify bottlenecks and stabilise your workflow using the cumulati… https://t.co/73o6ry6qz3Follow
Kanban WIP limits stop tasks getting stuck before completion and reduce cycle times. Learn how WIP limits improve t… https://t.co/wnz22p7dQwFollow
Explicit Kanban rules reduce the risk of productivity breakdowns and escalations of work items. The more explicit y… https://t.co/9XPNlujZO8Follow
Are you always short on time and on budget? We know the feeling because we’ve been there. Learn how our team at Nav… https://t.co/yEELO8I9qrFollow
Making accurate delivery forecasts is essential to staying on track, meeting deadlines and keeping a high level of… https://t.co/KeCohiSZwPFollow
Are long cycle times holding your business back? By following these tips and integrating data-driven analytics into… https://t.co/qyupTsQky9Follow
Kanban metrics let you monitor your productivity and give you the information to make data-driven decisions. Spot f… https://t.co/7eykWvlYuXFollow
Reducing waste allows you to achieve more with your team, streamlining your processes and maximising your profits.… https://t.co/R5C2FJeeCwFollow
How did supermarket restocking techniques revolutionise project management? Learn the history of Kanban and how it… https://t.co/wOI4kdvDi9Follow
Project managers are ultimately assessed by how their team delivers. In Kanban, throughput is the key measure of te… https://t.co/VzePsy8jFrFollow
Large teams and complex projects face a common issue – the Kanban board becomes cluttered and hard to read. Learn h… https://t.co/DHhWEWHGiZFollow