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
Optimize 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 a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams become more efficient through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.
We help you increase your performance, identify problems with ease and focus on improving workflow efficiency. Choo… https://t.co/jsxa4GMc5TFollow
To make your processes more efficient, first you need to identify where you are falling behind. Learn how to recogn… https://t.co/PiVxLY7CRJFollow
Business agility is changing about outside IT. Agile Kanban Istanbul presents the opportunity to increase the densi… https://t.co/WD2ABPmJkuFollow
Detailed practitioner view on how to handle a true complex customer centric problems through business agility… https://t.co/KHIYHNgqWEFollow
Find out how maintaining a Kanban pull system and using analytics to spot bottlenecks early, prevents project delay… https://t.co/EPdBviI2nNFollow
Track your current tasks in progress. Review the state of your process in the past. Learn more about Aging Chart fo… https://t.co/ZD7zwt50vPFollow
Get the most out of your Kanban system with our expert tips and guidelines for Kanban teams.… https://t.co/J1Wg3RlQr3Follow
Successful project managers are effective leaders whose decisions will drive a business forward. Here are the top 5… https://t.co/L7KSJNgvmcFollow
This is a story of a failed Kanban adoption and what could have been done to prevent the failure.… https://t.co/TbrQuFKbOhFollow
Nave's Kanban analytics for Jira allow you to build immersive charts from your existing data so that you observe an… https://t.co/snPPY0J8pxFollow
Prioritization in Kanban backlog revolves around your customer value and business needs. Find out how to grow as a… https://t.co/tqK9i9f96fFollow
Learn about the key issues around employee engagement, motivation and how to increase discretionary efforts in your… https://t.co/zi3dG5xXtfFollow
All of our plans come with unlimited users, real time updates, and complete board history sync. Any plan is free fo… https://t.co/vYoylZicPCFollow
Businesses with higher levels of team motivation perform better for a simple reason: they appreciate their employee… https://t.co/vndEHMTQyUFollow
Hear dozens of tips and tricks from Capital One Innovation Lab about how they use Kanban techniques to generate pow… https://t.co/Q3fcJUT1XbFollow
Learn about Kanban’s core practices in a gripping story about suffering and achievement. Get ideas about how you ca… https://t.co/oUCCtCmpR4Follow
Are you looking to improve your team performance, but find yourself held back? Throughput measures your team’s capa… https://t.co/G3ZLrpAxLoFollow
Take your team to a whole new level with Nave's Kanban analytics for Trello. Picture what's going on behind your da… https://t.co/BLkkibV7KGFollow
CFD for Asana has advanced chart overlay that shows the number of tasks in progress for the last 6 months.… https://t.co/DdJuVBPhAcFollow