Why Do So Many Programmers Hate Agile?20 Jul 2016
When talking to programmers, it's not uncommon to notice a definite displeasure or see their eyes roll at the very mention of Agile. Have you ever wondered why?
What is the cause of their automatic negativity at even the thought of Agile Development or Agile-related practice and method? Is it possible, that the things they name as causing the method to fail, are not Agile practices at all, but misinterpreted and misused Agile values?
It may be, that the team feel as though they're pawns of the Scrum Master or Agile Coach.
It's easy to see how this feeling can be created. There is a tendency for the management to bring in either an independent Agile consultancy or to hire a Scrum Master to oversee the Agile approach implementation and execution within the team.
The very fact, that this is an outside person, creates a barrier between the team and the "agilizing factor", which causes the us and them separation.
They may also feel micro-managed and under too much control, especially if each daily stand-up meeting is ended with a talking-to about how little had recently been done - this was never the intended purpose of a daily Stand-Up.
Too strong a time pressure also does harm - teams feel they need to deliver items at regular intervals, rather than when they are all ready and tested - this time-oriented approach can cause quality to suffer.
It's often reported, that the sprints are too short and there is no time to even gather full documentation before writing the code, not to mention looking it over once it is done. So, if working under high time pressure wasn't enough, the developers also need to cope with knowing that really, they only have one shot at getting it right.
It can well be that your programmers hate Agile, just because you're making them do it in a wrong way. But it is also possible that you're doing it right, and it's your team that are taking a general dislike to the idea. In which case - all there is left to do is wait for it to grow on the team - or replace the team.
People using Agile are deciding what to work on, have a say in the product's look and function and gain a lot of control over the project as a whole. It may be worth spelling this out to your employees.
Please keep in mind, that Agile has been thought out as programming approach by ...programmers themselves
- not project managers.
Could it be then, that the main difference between Agile as designed and Agile as used recently is, that it has become more of a project management domain, rather than programmers'? If so, the only solution might be to take it back from the PMs!
While appreciating the reasons why some are not enthusiastic about Agile, there is one way of looking at Agile, that makes most arguments fail: it is a sign of times.
Facts are, that whatever method you choose, in today’s times it will still need to address the ever changing customer demand, and thus following the stakeholders' need to iteratively control the results of your work.
In other words - however you'd like to call it, you will be doing some form of Agile development.
And one more thing: it's natural that the unhappy side of any story screams louder. You wouldn't imagine how many developers find Agile a working method and don't see anything in it to rage about. But it is always the displeased ones that have more to say, isn't it?
So: try it, customize it (yes, Agile Manifesto only mentions a few, key guidelines, none of which mention Scrum, sprints nor daily stand-ups in particular) and only then decide which side of the fence you're on. Thanks!
Agile Implementation Problems?12 Jul 2016
So, your Agile coach told you, that once you implement Agile, the team productivity will go through the roof, but you're struggling to see the result?
Maybe it's taking a little longer than expected to get there, or maybe the environment you've created does not fit the new requirements.. what should you do? Run to the Agile coach and demand your money back?
Perhaps, but why not take a closer look at what factors have the most impact, where an Agile team efficiency is concerned.
Bad user stories
Meaning stories that are either badly written in their core (they make no sense) or they're badly worded (development team don't know what to do) or they might be just too large for one feature / fix.
Easy solution: get the team, that is most likely to be working on an item to help out when writing the user story.
Wrong understanding of time-boxing
The idea isn't to put a time-frame on something, but to make the work of a size that will suit the normal, accepted and currently used time-box. The general rule is, tasks will always take at least as long as the estimate / time-box, so it's advised to make them possibly quite short.
Easy solution: agree on a few workable time-boxes, one of which always needs to be used when estimating delivery of an item.
It sounds easy enough to prioritize, but a surprising amount of teams do not manage their own priorities well at all. That's the kind of thing that can make or break your deal with a stakeholder.
Easy solution: give the team enough power to be able to pick the highly prioritized items for themselves and pause work on less crucial things in the meantime - rather than leave all of the decision making to a manager. Team know best when and how to pause / start work much more effectively than the manager.
Unclear definition of done
Unless all members of the team have the same understanding of when a task is done, there will always be a reverse flow present on your task management board. So delays, frustration and missed deadlines will follow.
Easy solution: define done and make this information known to all on the team - meaning - keep a written note on this in a visually reachable place - i.e. a task board or that spot right above the coffee machine you're all staring at while waiting for coffee.
Testing too late
It seems to be a hallmark of teams fairly new to Agile, who tend to bring their previous methods on board. Efficient testing and quick bug turnaround are crucial to making Agile work in at least a basic fashion.
Easy solution: automate testing and execute a strict testing policy.
Poor team communication
This often gets attributed to distributed teams only, but communication can suffer in all circumstances, all it takes is having bad examples set and no training (or common sense) in how much impact this creates to all productivity. Whether your team is spread across various time zones or sitting in the same room, not being able to share data, requirements and changes is a common issue.
Easy solution: make a protocol - state clearly what action requires which communicative reaction. It will hurt at first, but people get used to this after a while and information starts to flow beautifully through the company.
Bad start in Agile
It does happen, that teams, that were introduced to Agile from a wrong perspective or with unreal expectations just can't make it work. If the expectation is to increase productivity in a month or that by attending a 2 day course the team will change instantly - it simply will not happen.
Easy solution: manage your expectations and give the team time to learn the new ways and to adapt. Also, if it seems as though your Agile coach is making little sense - consider getting a "second opinion".
All these factors matter if you're seriously determined to see the results of your team being Agile. So, if things are not going as well as they should or could - find out the cause and fix it, it's perfectly doable.
YES to Some Procrastination!05 Jul 2016
Once your team labels you a procrastinator, there seems to be no way out, nor a good way to regain your face as a productive worker. But truthfully, we cannot all be masters of concentration and determination - can we?
Let's consider the positive sides of always putting things off for another day.
TOO QUICK IS TOO BAD
A portion of all work loses validity after a while - it may be that the time that would have been spent on it would had been a waste! Yay for big delayers, in this case.
Because of the constant need to do things later, procrastinators tend to find the easiest solutions to most problems they put their minds to. Definitely a useful procrastination's property - provided, that you can get the person in question to actually come up with their plan!
GOT THE TIME - GOT THE NEWS
Procrastinators are highly likely to always be up to date on all latest technologies and news - they do need to fill their workdays with something, don't they?! Morally questionable for their colleagues, but at times this is what makes the procrastinator shine.
THE BIG BURST
Once someone has been delaying something for quite a while, the moment they absolutely have to do it, there is a high chance that they'll know exactly what to do and how exactly to do it. We've all seen this happen - lots of energy, concentration, (panic!) and brilliant efficiency.
Whether the end result took more or less work done in total, that if it had been done the normal, day-to-day way, is another story altogether.
...but, keep in mind:
Though there are ways to make it seem harmless and positive, always going for a delay instead of working here and now - is very much a destructive habit to breed. Most of the success stories we hear come from people who excelled in what they do, because they love doing it. And since you wouldn't put off doing something that brings you joy, the act of procrastinating is an indication you're in a wrong place, basically.
Look out and happy procrastinating!
You've heard of Agile and how much it can do to a project's success and to overall company efficiency. Now, you'd like to go ahead and test it in your own field of work. But unless you know what exactly you're looking for, it can be tricky to find the right approach straight away.
Agile has been working towards process and productivity improvement of companies across all industries. Its main ideals have been gathered in the Agile Manifesto. Following are stated basic characteristics of the widely popular Agile-related terms.
Lean manufacturing & lean development
The approach is mainly focused on waste reduction across all production levels. Note, that in knowledge-based organizations all work that doesn't contribute to progress is considered wasteful. Lean principles base largely on Value Streams, which are visual representations of the actions and process steps that contribute to the project success and help to get rid of those that don't.
There are no definite management instructions of how to proceed with a Lean project - they are mainly guidelines.
Extreme Programming (XP)
This work management method has been designed for software development specifically. It largely focuses on increasing the responsiveness to a changing demand of the customer. XP advocates to release often and to plan development in short cycles, after which customer's requirements can be confronted with latest release and possibly adjusted.
This is a specific visualization and task management system, that's putting a lot of focus on team roles within the process and on planning work in small, time-definite cycles - called Sprints. Tasks are often devised as User Stories - development features as described by their future user or customer.
The great thing about Scrum in its ideal is that after each iteration, there should be a fully workable product achieved. Scrum works best for types of activities that can be planned ahead, as working sudden changes in requirements into an ongoing Scrum process can be tricky.
Also a visualization and task management system, originally developed for Lean Manufacturing (by one of Toyota's industrial engineer - Taichi Ohno). It bases on sign cards, which indicated parts in stock - hence showing what parts were needed for ordering, simplifying the supply chain and highly raising productivity. In early 2000s, the idea of using sign cards and moving them about a process board has been introduced to software development and then spread onto all branches of business.
Kanban asks to visualize workflow and limit the Work in Progress to reduce waste and unfinished work. The long-term focus of Kanban is continuous improvement, achieved through learning on past process impediments and adjusting the process accordingly.
To sum up - not all of the Agile methods can be used for all process types, some will work best just for specific processes (XP, Scrum), while others can be applied to any project and industry (Lean, Kanban).
Whether you're in software development or not, you can adopt an Agile project management method with a customizable agile online tool and build a visual board to match your very own process. There is a lot to be gained.
If organizing teamwork along the Agile method means self-organization into working groups, own task picking (pull model) and own task management - the questions of whether a manager for those teams is needed at all is indeed a valid one.
While the core team are getting busy with planning, research, development and testing - all the less visible tasks, that escape their focus remain to be ..managed. This may not be true of the very small teams, in which roles are inter-changing and all aspects of the business are held by a compact team.
But in medium to large teams, there are some key areas that need looking at by a manager, specifically.
Team & Performance Management
Despite the fact that people pick their own tasks, it's advisable that someone oversees how the work spreads and whether the distribution and assignments are making sense - meaning the big picture. Self organization does not necessarily imply organizational intelligence, does it?
An integral part of this is making sure that the performance stays on the desired level and of a sustainable pace. The mere fact that people are picking up tasks and doing the work does not yet mean they are getting results and in the needed time-line. Although tricky, the manager's job here is also probing the team's very Agility, best done with typical Agile metrics, such as Lead & Cycle Time, Cumulative Flow or a Burn-down Chart.
While your team are getting along their own set, agile route, it can often be that other company departments do not keep up, for whatever reason. A go-between in the form of a manager is the quickest and easiest way to go to join the two, by involvement of proper perspective and foreseeing any impediments stemming from the difference in process stages that different team are at.
A similar dissonance can occur between the Agile team and their suppliers and stakeholders. The very role of an Agile manager here is to plan ahead for these external groups to not act in an Agile manner and prepare for working the delays that this causes into the team's workflow. This is normally achieved by working specific expectations into the contracts.
Risk & Investment Management
As far as staying Agile and developing well goes, the key thing an Agile manager should be looking at is value. Not so much have we exceeded our budget? but what should we be investing in (focusing on) now?. So, a difference in thinking is needed to achieve this: instead of concentrating on sticking to a once-set plan, the job of the manager is to focus on the best value achievable at the time.
This can only be done by frequent evaluation of the ongoing projects and hence - by working in short iterations. Again, using Agile metrics is of great help in this aspect.
An outside to the workflow view is also needed in order to assess possible risks for the ongoing and planned projects.
The Crown Jewel - Change Management
Change management is the one aspect of running an Agile workflow that is better done by one person looking at the whole environment, rather than by teams. This is also when an Agile manager can really shine, as preparing the team to adjust to new demands is key to maintaining the Agile spirit.
A big part of this is also knowing which steps can and cannot be taken while thinking of making a change. It's mostly about balance between what can and should be achieved in a given time and what will simply block the flow, the productivity and the - key here- team's level of satisfaction.
To sum up - it's very tempting to think that self-organizing teams need no management at all. But there are too many facets to running business in any way (Agile or traditional) that need careful looking at and direct management. There are too many jobs that will just not get into place of their own accord.
Mind you, it's clear to see however, that whereas the job of an Agile manager is similar to a traditional project manager's, there is far less to be managed in an Agile environment, than in the traditional ones.
So, you know what Agile Development is, what rules it follows as a methodology and what results can be anticipated. But, if you've been applying the method for some time and are not quite seeing the benefits, perhaps something is slipping through the cracks?
For a speedy re-evaluation of how well - or not - your team are applying Agile Development practices in their work, take a look at the following:
The essential DO"S of Agile Development:
Start with the culture, not tools and details.
Rather than diving all in with a new tool-set, it's worth establishing suitable environment for the team to work in with no distractions - such as calls, meetings and other information noise - which hinders productivity. In other words, remember to start with an Agile mindset.
Planning from the ground up.
Think in terms of large-scale plans, then devise iterations by which these goals can be reached - not the other way round. This way, chances are you will not only realize the major plan, but also keep the team involved in the big picture. All towards better understanding of the process and higher productivity.
While planning, plan actual items, not ideas.
Try to become your customer. There needs to be as few people between the customer and the product development team as possible. This way the product that gets built is closest to the one that was desired. Keep in mind, that each person that an idea goes through adds their own spin on it, whether they want to or not. People simply never see things in quite the same way, so instead of adding 20 000 more words to the product description, concentrate on building it the way it needs to be.
Many would argue, this is the key element to making Agile work. If the aim is to respond quickly and to swiftly adjust to changes - developing good ways to communicate the needs and impediments effectively is indeed essential. Try a visualization tool that will make this a piece of cake.
Team orientation and identification.
No matter if your team sit in one room or are spread about a number of cities, states or continents, each of the team members has got to know who to turn to for specific information. In other words, people need to know - not guess - who is doing what part of the project. A lot of time to be saved here.
Split work into workable batches, of preferably fixed, repeatable length and let the team focus on that. So - iterate, assign work, wait for estimates from the people who will do the jobs and expect results. Then repeat.
As easy as it sounds, many teams fall short of being able to prioritise well, meanwhile it is the crucial part of making any process Agile and responsive - is it not?
Team members need to know which parts of the work are falling under whose accountability. Otherwise, assumed common responsibility for the work items falls on everyone, which in practice means it actually falls on no-one.
The crucial DONT"S of Agile Development:
Once work is assigned, let it be done, without standing over the team. Micro-managing each stage of the process is no part of Agile development. At the same time, don't assume that teams need no overseeing of any kind. Though general leadership is normally enough, both the leader and stakeholders should have access to updates on process stages and should be able to get involved in case of any issues or hold-ups.
Too frequent team changes.
By adding new team members to the pack with every month, chances of success fall, as the original crew needs to adjust and gauge how the new person will be fitting in. If new people are needed, it might be better to bring them in as a self-contained, new cross-functional team at first. After a while, new and old teams become more familiar and then will be more open to mixing in.
Not sticking to WIP limits.
The aim of the WIP limit is to help you, not work against you. Try to stick to the once set limit and good things will happen. Although it's typical for teams to override or ignore them, it's would be rewarding for all on the team to actually take notice.
Leaving all bugs till debugging.
It's tempting to leave them be, since there is allocated time for getting them fixed before release. This tends to lead to sloppy development practices, and - in the long run - creates procrastination tendencies. Not quite what you need in your Agile environment.
Keeping bad news hidden for too long.
People may think this is a good thing to do, as they're not spreading stressful news round, but in fact, leaving bad news for when it's too late to try and decrease the calamity is only making it worse.
Complying with the same impediments each sprint.
If there are roadblocks in this sprint, teams will work around them. If the same impediment occurs next sprint - this is a signal, that it would actually be worth clearing this impediment out completely, even if by forcing this as a job for the next sprint. It will be worth it in the long run.
Not caring for team happiness.
Individual team members' level of happiness with the workplace or company transfers directly onto the way they do the work. Easy enough to see how. It's dangerous to not think about that at all and leave any initial dissatisfaction to grow and possibly spread team-wide. It is the people who make the company and who make it work - it's vital to pay attention to how they feel in it.
It would make perfect sense to periodically evaluate how your team are working and what can be done to help them get better, more efficient and more satisfied with their jobs. It will most definitely not cause any harm, neither to them nor the business.
Collaborative Agile Learning17 May 2016
Collaborative learning can be understood as using teamwork and its results to develop new skills and adopt ideas and behaviour that's new to all or parts of the team. In many ways, this is the quickest way to spread knowledge, as various team members can be taught at the same time.
Bouncing questions and follow-up ideas is also easier when an entire group of people learns together.
Collaborative and Agile learning is much more than just learning together - it is discovering knowledge and patterns by going through iterations of joined problem solving, analysis, perfecting visualisation methods and through repeated processing of joined efforts.
Here are some ingredients of realizing this approach:
Inspire with transparency
The transparency of a process, characteristic of an Agile approach, results in a whole team being able to follow the entire process and by that, getting closer to other branches of the work.
Swap the roles
With any Agile workflow there will be different in-process roles to be taken care of.
It's great to rotate these group roles to facilitate people's preparation in managing all aspects of the work and to help them to learn by doing.
This will also visualize the way roles within an organizations shift, but it's good to keep the responsibility common - thereby showing the importance of knowing all steps of the process and being able to realize them.
Motivate by giving time, space and incentive to learn
Space & time: Make visual aids and interactive learning courses informing specific teams of the specific concepts, details, procedure approaches this group is encouraged to be learning. By making them available online or at the office in an individually managed way (online test or graphically enhanced study guide), teams will have the opportunity to pick them up and start learning in their own time, when it best suits them. This seems like a more inspiring way to evolve at the workplace than being sent to a corporate conference - learning event.
Incentive: Go one step further - it's even easier to get started on a course, when the newly acquired skill or knowledge can be applied to teams daily work right away. Agile all the way!
Time & Control: Allow for people to edit the schedule and have their say in the scheme of the process (common in Agile), by which the team will end up feeling empowered and in control of their learning path, not just of how the work schedule proceeds.
Apply personal touch
It's clear that not all of your team members want to learn the same skill or will have the same career path. Try tailoring their growth plan to specific needs and do gently monitor the progress.
It may be an interesting idea to begin assigning jobs that require certain amount of the new, desired skill to complete. You're not only familiarizing the person with the subject matter, they will also get new incentive along the way.
While assigning these suggestion jobs to the team, it's great to choose groups of people to assign to, not individuals. Teams learn more when they collaborate and exchange ideas - ever though why pair programming is so successful?
Prepare for unsuccessful experiments
It's commonly known, that one of the most effective ways to find a new solution or approach to a problem is - by far - finding them in action. So, letting the team try new things can lead to both their learning and development, as well as the product and company growth, but with the statistically obvious amount of failure. Some of this will directly influence the company. Treat these as cost of team development, not as lack of professionalism or dedication.
Try this approach to see if teams can learn or even get inspired to learn by collaborating.
An extreme version of collaborative Agile learning would entail getting started with Agile methods by ...cooperatively learning about them. There is more than enough good sources about the methodology, so an idea, as presented by Renee Troughton, is that each team member does a little reading about the Agile approach to managing projects, and later shares these with the team, so that they all learn together.
Sounds more than clever!
Kanban Tool is all about letting you work and monitor progress from wherever you are.
We're happy to announce that Kanban Tool can now be accessed on a brand new Android application and via a newly released, dedicated iOS app.
To download the iOS application please visit iTunes.
The new, visually updated Android application can be found in Google Play Store.
Please note, that the new app is not a version update of the existing Kanban Tool Android application, so if you've had this previously installed, it will not update automatically.
Best to uninstall the old one and download the fresh application from here.
Enjoy the mobile Kanban Tool experience!
Why Would You Do Retrospectives?27 Apr 2016
If one of the goals of Agile adoption is continuous improvement, doubtlessly there's a lot riding on the ways in which teams can improve what is being achieved by how they work, basing on past efforts. What's more sensible, than looking back at how we've worked in the past, when looking for ways to improve in the future?
Doing a process retrospective is therefore key to finding improvement opportunities.
When to Do Retrospective Meetings?
Retrospectives normally occur every iteration, so after each sprint, section or milestone. The idea is to look at the good and the bad to conclude what could be enhanced right away. Sort of a lessons learned meeting.
How to Do Retrospective Meetings?
Get ready - gather up team and data needed.
Get going - discuss roadblocks, achievements and interesting findings.
Get focused - prioritise what to work on.
You will not tackle all issues raised, so pick the most vital ones.
Get plotting - outline a way of having the problem removed or fixed for the next iteration.
Get positive - close on a high.
Focus on new improvement goals and appreciate the successes the team have had. Although the goal here is not to just feel good about the work, but about working well, ending on a postive can make a difference.
Now, if this meeting is going to take place every iteration, you will want to find good ways of keeping it short and focused. One good way of making quick decisions is using the PMI approach for identifying what we think of an issue. PMI stands for Plus, Minus and Interesting. So just 3 simple categories for speedy making up those analytic minds.
There is also a clever approach to defining solutions. Rather than treat each item with an individual (and time-consuming) problem solving approach, take on the "doing" ways. For any identified issue, you can either rule to stop doing, continue doing or start doing (something new).
How not to do retrospective meetings?
Don't let it turn into a blame game, which is all too easy to do. A high degree of trust and a friendly atmosphere are necessary in order to make this work well. It's also ill-advised to invite non-team members to the meeting. Definitely not a good way of making teams feel comfortable and open. This is not a show for bystanders, this meeting is meant to serve a specific purpose.
Why do retrospective meetings?
Retro meetings are a good way of keeping the team feel empowered and in ownership of the work, rather than like human tools. This has to be a good thing, right? They are also an exercise in self-management. It's much easier to accept the need to change if you yourself have been part of the team that made this requirement, than to have this demanded of you from above. Great way to keep teams happy.
What to keep in mind
The one key thing worth keeping in mind is to devise a way of ensuring the changes are indeed being introduced, not just talked about. A practical way of working the changes into the daily routine is putting them up on the task board as just another user story or work item. Building on the habit of team's looking at the board - they are bound to work the changes into what they do.
The added benefit
So, as advised, you get the team leader or any team member - even better when this is a different person each time - to translate improvement goals into workable task board items. This, in its own rights, forces that person to come up with specific ways of making these items non-abstract and actionable, henceforth making them used to finding solutions and more attuned to hands-on appreciation of progress and ways of improvement.
So, it would then seem, that team enhancement, process improvement and happier teams all can be a result of keeping sensible and focused retrospectives.
Where's My Focus Gone Now?19 Apr 2016
Does it frustrate you to find yourself getting started on a particular task for the third time during one hour? Although there isn't anything specific standing in the way of getting the job done, you mind wanders off and seems to be interested in everything but the task that you're meant to work on.
There are some easy to eliminate causes for such any annoying lack of focus:
Eating a bad diet
Filling your diet with too much of one specific item (like alcohol or coffee), or just making bad choices all-round (junk food) can cause attention deficit and concentration problems.
Not getting enough sleep
No surprises here - sleep is the key ingredient in keeping the mind-works going.
Being too quick to react
In most office environments this is a bad thing, even though it may seem like a great approach. By reacting instantly, you're not allowing any time to double check what you're doing or to reflect on any unwanted consequences. Better to give things a few minutes to sink in, rather than get ahead of yourself.
Staying too eager to say YES
The earlier on you master the art of refusing or being assertive, the better. It's one thing to be helpful to colleagues and polite to your boss, and another to completely give into the power of others and take their requests on as more valid than your own responsibility and plan.
Not knowing how to prioritise
With a little experience on any job, you can tell which items are more important than others. Make a point of dealing with high priority tasks first. Better yet, get an online tool that will sort items by priority for you.
Giving in to preoccupying thoughts
An ongoing fight with a spouse, a harsh comment from the boss or just feeling convinced you've left the stove on back home - these kind of thoughts can linger on your mind for hours, ruining any efforts to get to work. There are 2 ways of clearing the mind of them: 1. resolve the issue or 2. forget it and move on. Depending on the problem's importance, one or the other is always possible. It's an invaluable skill to be able to make this choice, work through it and carry on.
Still believing in multitasking
Gone are the days when people really trusted this makes sense at the office. Do 2 things at once, and none of them will be done right. Do them separately, both stand a chance of being well done, and you've got the added benefit of a calm, focused mind, that didn't have to stretch to concentrate on a balancing act. It's easier, more efficient and nicer to do 1 thing at a time.
Are your inbox displayed in front of you, phone switched on and office door open? These guarantee that whatever plans you've made, you will be disturbed. Manage these channels in a way that keeps you in charge of what you do. It's not that difficult: emails can be answered at set times, callbacks arranged and meetings agreed to in advance. If you aim to focus, external information input has to be limited.
Not taking breaks nor holidays
Your brain needs to reset every once in a while. Both for a few minutes every couple hours, and for a few weeks a year. Getting some rest and a little vacation for a change keeps the mind fresh and stimulated by work for longer in the long run.
Tick at least a few items off the list to buy some peace of mind & a tiny serving of concentration power for yourself. It's well worth it.
There is a number of things that can be done to make a company grow and thrive, some involving external forces, some working from within. Arguably, the best way to go about it from within is facilitating team growth and team members' skill evolution. After all, a company can only be as successful as the people making it.
What are the easy things managers and teams can do to grow together?
Culture of Knowledge Sharing
In greatly complex organizations this seems to be a real problem, relating to the knowledge hoarding trend, based in belief that "for as long as I'm the only one who knows how to so this, my job is secure". Although this works in short-term, both for that individual and the company, it's wrong in its core and leads to a halt in individual and company development. Main reason being - this definitely pauses innovation, without which today's organizations are simply endangered.
Unless team members know what others are doing, they cannot support each other, cooperate nor find common ground between their work planes. Knowing what the others are working on also delivers a better chance at building great things - departmental views of products are different for a reason, and this is best utilized to show different angles to specific teams. While some issues are valid across all angles, others need detailed presentation to teams not involved in a particular aspect of the product – all for the greater good.
Make knowledge and data sharing technically possible and easy for people to feel like making an effort. It's been studied that cultivating habits of sharing helps not only with company success, but with general individual capacity growth as well.
This knowledge sharing includes what the management chooses to share with teams, actually. The larger number of people work together, the more rumours and unconfirmed information will float - it's a great strategy to manage them, before panic and fear sneak in. It's usually better to confirm bad news, rather than leave it in the lurking zone of the unknown – the last thing any company needs is people fearing for their jobs on a daily basis or plotting against one another.
Department Stories Made Public
Both individual achievements and ways in which results of your work have made an impact outside should be known to all involved with this product. Also, both success and failure stories should be welcome, with emphasis on failure, as these usually offer more insight into what can be done better in the future. These are easiest to manage in weekly retro meetings - with a quick summary of things that went well and efforts that led to failure.
As a follow up on this, it's a great policy to ask the teams for feedback and actually act on it. Although the team is there for the company, it's clear that without teams there are no companies. In other words, their opinion does matter.
Meet Informally to Get Closer
Oldest trick in the book you say? Sure, but it can work - it's easier and more natural to stay open and collaborative with a team of people that you know and - possibly - care for. Even a simple thing as a quick working lunch helps to bring people closer in a less corporately restricted way.
While informally involved - try thinking together in an "outside the box" capacity. Fantasy and craziness, typically making a presence during informal meets can show new angles of approaching old problems or inspire new ideas to work an old work goal with. Yes, the more fun a meeting, the less real these ideas will get, still – chances of coming up with something of value are high.
Aside for these somewhat subtle ways of getting to work together in a better way, there is also the standard, outright way to get there - enrolling teams in teamwork workshops or funding specific courses to make specific people develop a particular skill. Subtle or not, this is what many a valuable employee is really looking for, and the benefits will be valid for both them and the company.
Whichever way you'd like to go, do keep in mind, that without a flexible, cooperative team, your business will just not move forward. Pay attention to the knowledge flow and team culture that is present. It's often of more impact on the teams than their actual pay!
Common Agile Adoption Mistakes05 Apr 2016
Nowadays most companies want to adopt Agile and work alongside the methodology. It's no wonder why, seeing how much positive change and productivity increase this generates, but there are some common pitfalls lurking there, that it is best to look out for:
Poor Team Build
When teamwork cooperation method changes, the team structure is likely to have to follow. Naturally, if your organization has not been Agile previously, your team build was probably not either. A typical Agile team is cross-functional and secure. So, it will have representation of all skills needed to complete an item, and these sets of people will tend to work together on a regular basis. This ensures good quality of work and constant improvement of the cooperation, knowing that the more people work together, the easier their mutual understanding becomes.
The Planning Trap
Since you've just changed the methodology of work, it's unacceptable to assume that the way it is planned does not have to change with it. So, you're now expecting to be delivering more often and in smaller batches, but this shouldn't let you think you just halve the time that was previously needed to do twice as much. The everyday methods are about to change significantly, and this will create an adjustment period for the team. Not only will they have to learn cooperating in a new way, they will also have to readjust their estimations (if you use these at all). It's good to allow a few iterations for teams to learn what their new velocity is.
Not Listening to the Customer
Agile is not only about visual boards, story points and daily stand-ups. The wider concept includes an ability to quickly respond to a changing demand. This is why not listening to what the client is saying builds you a trap. It's normal that the requirements will change and evolve and - unless you're able to adjust and provide for a changing request - you are not only disappointing the client, but also failing to stay Agile and relevant on your market.
Not Letting the Team Have a Say
The relationship between the business-side management and production team is different within Agile organizations than in the traditional ones. From a productivity angle, it's most effective if team members pick their work items themselves, with only the priority level being assigned by superiors. This tends to create happier teams, and most importantly - develop a more responsible approach from the team.
Having said that, making an assumption that the team members will organize everything perfectly well and completely autonomously is also likely to be wrong. Try meeting the two opposites somewhere down the middle by empowering to self-organise, while overseeing the results on a daily basis. Keep in mind, that Agile-typical self-organization is not synonymous with a lack of discipline.
Stopping at a Tool Adoption
It's a typical first step in many an Agile adoption to set the team up in an online Agile tool, which is great, as it gets the team right into the new way of doing. What needs to be remembered here, however, is that the adoption should not end here. You do want the team to work in a suitable cooperation tool, but they also need to be informed of the Agile mindset changes that should take place if this implementation is going to work.
The Agile adjustment needs to happen on all levels, it is not enough to just change the way you assign work to people. Each aspect, from thinking about work items, through planning their build to testing, deployment and feedback gathering need to apply an Agile character, which is: welcome change and apply it with great flexibility.
The Old "Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail"...
You do always need to be prepared. In this case, be prepared that people will resist Agile, as much as folks resist any change. Making changes is tough, so not only would it be advised that you have someone assigned to overseeing the Agile adoption process, you should also consider getting prepared for failure and devising a worst-case scenario plan.
ANd Above All - Don't Idealize Agile
Yes, it can bring great change and improvement about, but it is no silver bullet that will strike a company and turn it around with no effort on anyone's part. It's possible, somewhere down the line, but it can only happen with people trying very hard to make it work. The upside is, from among many an organizational methods, this is likely to be one of the easier ones that you can go for.
What Makes a Responsible Agile Team?31 Mar 2016
There is a great true story of a ship captain, who realized his team were neither meeting their full capacity nor were as effective for the ship works as they could. Once each of the team was given full responsibility for what they did - their performance took a completely different turn, making the crew happier and more efficient, and making the ship a practical legend. Just one example of how an empowered team can make your organization thrive.
See what are the components of getting this to work right.
It's not enough to hire a great set of people. In order to achieve and really care for the work they do, the team need to feel they have the power to do what is needed, rather than just obey orders, and have the will to do their best. The level of empowerment comes down to a very basic rule: the team feel as much (or little) empowerment as you assume for them. In other words - if you treat the team as if they were 10-year-olds they will behave as that. And likewise, if you leave the decision-making and power in their lap, they will have no other choice but to take it.
Trust is necessary to make this work, but this should be more than obvious. What matters here additionally, is leading by example. It's demotivating for the team to know the boss isn't showing up for work or/and has a light approach to his responsibilities, while expecting a serious one form them.
Commitment is Time-Saving
Had you ever tried recruitment of any kind, you won't be surprised to know that it is far more effective to work with the people you've already got, educate, train and teach them - than to let them go and start looking for a replacement personnel. Of course, there will be the extreme cases of team members whose firing is an absolute blessing, but this is just statistics. For the most part, you're better off re-educating and investing in the team, than with training new people.
The Big Picture
Paying attention to the big picture is often the key to understanding lack of responsibility and commitment among the team. Just as no man is an island, no employee is either. One person's work has got to fit in and be reflected in the way the entire organization works. A single responsible, Agile worker will not make a company Agile, will they? Being able to spot the problems an employee is facing, appreciating what kind of reaction and support may be lacking from the rest of the team, is often the explanation of why the performance is low.
The Company Agility
When looking to find your team as Agile and responsible, it's good to take an objective look at how the organization works as a whole. Way too often, Agile methods are only used on the surface, for instance in the way people share work and complete tasks - but what about the entire company policies and procedures? If it takes a month to even get to a discussion of an urgent subject, even if 100% of employees successfully use Scrum or Kanban, the company is nowhere near being Agile. The problem and the greatness of Agile together lie in the scalability of it - a scalability that is both recommended and necessary in order for the change planned to make any sense. There is a significant number of people giving the impression that it's their view, that using Kanban means they are being Agile. The truth is, using Kanban means you're using Agile methods, but it's not synonymous with your company being Agile.
Taking these into account, a plan for making your team Agile, motivated and responsible for their actions should be this little bit easier. Best of luck!
Kanban Tool is now available in 7 languages!23 Mar 2016
Good news: In response to growing multinational interest in Kanban Tool, the service is now available in no less than 7 languages!
The choice - aside from English - includes:
Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Russian and Polish.
To use your language while working in Kanban Tool, just switch in My Profile - Edit my details - Language,
or make a change on your domain login page (the country icon in the top right corner).
Our brain is a complex organ, which sometimes can be subjected to tricks that will make it work better for our purpose. Find out if and why are we really well designed to work in a truly Agile way.
To do anything, we need to want to do it first. But willpower is a very precious commodity within our brain. Some claim that applying a new process approach (i.e. Agile) will cost people to have to spend even more energy and willpower. Thanks to Anna Obukhova's great biological take on Agile and willpower we can see this is not true.
The main difficulty
Our resistance to change is natural. It results with lack of motivation, dedication and - mainly - willpower.
Although we want to go and apply the change, we lack the energy necessary to do it. This can be traced directly back to the way our brains are built. The reptilian brain, responsible for our self-preservation, is the oldest one. On top of this there is the limbic system, letting us find our way within a society. Above this there is the "human" brain (neo-cortex), which helps us think abstractly and objectively. The oldest parts of the brain are the strongest ones. Seeing, that a forced change is an external force, needed to be approached consciously and with a lot of abstract-future thinking and effort, it makes sense that we often struggle to welcome a difficult change. Keeping the willpower energy levels up is hard work for humans. Let's see what can be done to make this happen.
Save your willpower
This is best done by limiting its consumption. First of all, we need to sleep well, relax and avoid making decisions that needn't to be made. In the office, this is greatly achieved by finding our flow. Flow is a state somewhere between anxiety and boredom, when we know what to do and how to best do it, no further decisions need making.
Activities that we do basing on habits are not costing us much willpower, so let's make habits and stick to a once set plan. It's great to have set rituals, like a daily Stand-Up meeting, "second Thursday of the month" meet, retrospectives, review and planning meetings etc.
Also, having a backlog of work items to choose from is a perfect situation for the willpower. Knowing how tired or energized we are, we can match the difficulty of the task to your given energy state during the day. On top of this, choosing items for ourselves tricks the brain into believing this is more interesting and fun than any task that someone else had assigned us to.
Don't let others decrease your willpower
Other people and certain situations influence our willpower by putting us under stress, raising uncertainty and anxiety. What to do?
Regular refinement of items that need work lets us reduce anxiety and ensure us that we know what these tasks will entail, what to expect. Testing items ensures we're all on the same page, and having a common definition of done is the key. The anxiety comes from thinking: have I done this right? As long as all team members know what is expected - and this does not change half-way through (or just before the demo of the product) - we are able to calmly work on our tasks.
Also, we need to treat change requests as regular occurrence - standardize their submitting pattern and think of them as just another task. In cases where a change is requested for the same item multiple times, it would help if it's not always the same person making the change, as we can only register so many changes before we lose focus on an item, and cannot see further need for improvement.
See the results and sell the results
In order to feel enabled for succeeding, our brains need to be fed success in at least small amounts regularly. Otherwise, it's incomprehensible for our brain to think "I will achieve something great". How to be fed success on a daily basis? Using check-lists, so that we can tick things off a number of times a day, make tasks small, so that each day we know there is something we've accomplished. Human brain loves this.
This is how moving tasks cards is so good for us, every time you move a card to "done" - this is a small success. In order to be focused and successful, and first of all creative, people need to be paid accordingly to their value, respectful of how they see it. An underpaid employee will be unavailable (as their brain is focused in "flight to another job" mode), and an overpaid one will be anxious that with any mistake they make, it will be known they were overestimated. In other words, people need to feel they are selling their results at just the right price.
Having understood this, it's quite impossible to argue that doing work in Agile methodology is unnatural, isn't it?
Once we understand how well this approach cooperates with the way our brains work, it starts to make a whole lot more, new sense.
Would you rather your team to be working on projects - focus on one thing at a time until it's done, or for each person to have their own, assigned role, doing their thing at their own pace for specific goals?
Both seem to have their advantages and faults, also - one is bound to be more productive than other
- let's take a look at their different aspects.
Project-based organizational model:
- Team members from different departments are gathered to all work on a project, under one project coordinator, with designated funding and often decision making autonomy.
- The project participants are mostly, but not always, required to cooperate directly.
- More often than not, the project manager will be the only superior the team will have to report to, making management easier and response time shorter.
- The focus and priority are one and one only: completing the project. This is a great position, from a stakeholder’s point of view. Keeps the team focus aligned as well, motivation is easier to obtain and the goal is shared.
- As all communication and decision making happens within a project team - things tend to be happening quite fast and fairly efficiently.
- As more projects are started, more teams are required, and some of their efforts will be duplicated, unfortunately making scalable economy unachievable.
- There is potential danger in the project team putting their project first (as they would) as far as to not seeing beyond, which can lead to a separation of teams within an organization. Projects become unattached from the "big picture".
- Running a company on project-basis can create an insecure environment for the personnel, as each project's end is often associated with end of work for them. This is not ideal for team morale.
Team-based organizational model:
- Long-term teams or departments cooperate on progressing tasks specific to them only.
- Direct communication is needed to make daily updates and arrangements - this can sometimes take some time, as each department has its own focus and priorities.
- Great flexibility with regards to use of the personnel - team members can work on a few projects at a time, making the best use of their time, self-managing the workload and prioritizing accordingly.
- With team-based organization, when an employee leaves the company, it's easier to retrace their steps and process to fill in the replacement employee. This is not quite as well facilitated in project-based organizations.
- The career path for the team members is quite clear and reassuring.
- A significant disadvantage of this type of organization lies in different priorities and levels of interest and motivation, that members of specific departments will have for a project, that they all take part in. This can result is delays in getting projects done, due to lack of focus.
- Finally - it can be difficult to coordinate projects run cooperatively by many separate departments, as hardly ever will this project's manager be superior to all members involved.
Both team-based and project based projects can create isolated groups of people or of focus within a company. The less likely to be doing this are the project-based ones, as long as there is a shift in chosen employees for different projects.
But thinking of efficiency alone, it would certainly seem as though the project-based organizations get results more quickly, question is: at what cost?
Of course, choosing one or the other organizational method will depend very much on the type of work an organization does and on long-term company vision.
Perhaps a good compromise is running a hybrid of the two?
Applying a hierarchical structure to the workforce is a good way of making everyone aware of their position, while keeping projects with their designated managers as a form of activity, not organization, should speed the completion times up. Given that the organizational roles are kept within the projects, there is a chance of killing two birds with one stone.
It's certainly helpful in terms of not being able to turn attention and focus away from project to company goals.
A great way of keeping goals clear and the big picture available for all on the team is using visual task management, which references other projects and keeps the organization Agile and aware of the long-term plans.
Deciding on the right management model is not an issue for small to medium companies, but it is a crucial decision for any large organization. Worth giving a lot of consideration.
What's Halting your Business Growth?02 Mar 2016
No business will grow on its own.
It may sometimes seem that all in your team are working long hours, therefore the business must be headed in the right direction and continue to develop. But it takes no business genius to know, that it's not how many hours you put in, but what you're focused on, that makes the difference between a prosperous enterprise and a failing one. Let's look at some of the key causes why things not going quite the way you'd want them to.
You feel that your product is already so good that it can never get any better but no, there are ALWAYS things that need doing to deliver an even better creation. Development and upgrades do not stop.
Too much hands-on management
There is an easy mistake many an entrepreneur makes, that is believing that when they engage in solving daily, urgent problems, they tend to business growth. The truth is - even though an ongoing problem might have been put to bed, the business has not started to grow because of this. They key is to have people responsible for dealing with crisis, so that you can concentrate on the long term development plans.
Not looking at the bigger picture
Managing daily operations ties closely to making a change in perceiving your role in the company - it's crucial to know when to shift from an owner to a leader, or if this is not ideal for you, often remaining an owner and hiring an executive leader might be the way to go. Tough to do, but sometimes the best solution. In those cases, it's good to have this option considered well ahead of time, so that you can "train" the successor yourself. This is often the ideal compromise.
This is an aspect of business development that needs careful consideration. Don't hire, unless you have to, and when you do, spend as much time as possible on matching the candidate to your specific job requirements as well as office culture.
Inability to delegate work
Since it's your business, you think you know what's best for it and how to get it done. If this thinking never changes, you, as a leader, will never be able to oversee all the decisions made within the company yourself, which in turn, will lead to a serious pause to the overall business development.
There needs to be a certain amount of trust between you and the team you've hired, in order for you to truly delegate the busy work so that you can focus on the bigger picture.
Wrong growth management
As with any powerful force, a sudden, significant business growth requires management and control - if this is not taken care of, the very lack of keeping ties on what is aready happening with regards to growth can cause havoc and disinformation, which will in turn lead to disruption of further development. Ironic?
Cash flow issues
This is a standard problem for small and medium companies, with having to decide between how to invest the money, when to borrow and when to sit quietly. Most business growth strategies require investment, so shying away from spending, just to keep a positive balance can be murder to growth. Making these decisions is hard, but when made right at the right time, are in themselves able to make companies grow wildly.
As difficult as it is, any business needs a growth / development plan, there is no questions about it. If you're not prepared to make decisive steps to direct it, make sure that there is someone else in place to take the necessary steps.
Can we Ever Beat Procrastination at Work?24 Feb 2016
Understanding that if it's just your nature to put things off, and that if you lack motivation or need to make progress whichever way you can - the tendency would really be to answer: "NO, you cannot beat it".
There is a million things you can try to make yourself NOT procrastinate, but if you've been cultivating this rotten habit long enough, consider yourself gone "beyond repair".
What are the critical items that have to occur in order to stop a procrastinator from developing within you? If you're relatively young and don't want to be one, or are terribly desperate to change, if you already are - take a look:
A Control Force: Something or someone needs to be hanging over you
Whether its your boss, your landlord or your spouse - there must be something bigger than your will standing over you. In other words, if your bank account is bursting in seams, so are your fridge and garage - chances are, your boss's frown or disapproval will not have much effect on you.
There has to be either something you're respectfully scarred of or vividly excited about that can make you do the thing you're meant to do on a daily basis.
An Inspiration: The other side of the coin
If you're not just a busy-bee, working away for someone else, possibly having little care for the job, but needing to do it anyway - what can drive and motivate you enough to stop any procrastination developing, is passion for the job. If you enjoy it, feel fulfilled by doing it or - even better - the work is what you've always wanted to do - there is little chance you'll put doing it off at any time for any length of time.
The only tricky part here is keeping the inspiration alive.
For instance, it's common for people starting their own businesses with great passion to lose it in the process. With the amount of red tape and organization it requires, burning out is very easy. Keeping the inspiration high is difficult and requires a conscious effort.
How to Focus to Work Against Procrastination, then?
In both of the above scenarios, what can help you avoid making those bad procrastinating habits or thoughts is being aware of their consequences. Truth is, once you get into a habit of giving things time to wait for action, and forever changing due dates on work items - you're very unlikely to change. We're creatures of habit and making any significant changes is always hard, as this research confirms. Sometimes it's enough to just know how bad it can get, to make you avoid making a habit of "laying things off for a while".
Another thing is focus. Things will always need putting away for a while, as you can only work on a few items at a time, but what makes a procrastinator different from their opposite is determination to get back to the once postponed tasks. The key to making this work is staying focused on the long term goal and fair to oneself. Once you're able to fool yourself that a task hidden is a task done - you're in trouble.
A few useful tips you can use to fight this habit are:
- The 5 minute rule - if a job can be done now, do it instead of putting it off
- Setting priorities and sticking to their meaning
- WIP limits for better focus – not working on more than 2 items at a time
- Setting specific due dates only (as opposed to "in a few weeks", "next quarter"). Due date should really mean a DATE
The very last resort to procrastinators can be enforced in form of periodical reports - asking the person in question for a detailed report of what has been worked on, done or not quite finished. This is very likley to yield a result, as the very awareness of having to answer for what's been completed is usually enough to get people (yourself included) to work.
You may have noticed that "procrastination" here has been described more like a disease than a way we behave. This is not an accident. The danger is - once you become good at procrastinating, it's very hard to change.
Please don't start!
When thinking of organizations and the ways in which they change and evolve, the main thing to keep in mind is: organizations are made of people. Hence, if it's people making the teams and teams making the companies, it should not be too difficult to make an entire organization Agile.
It's “only” a matter of scaling it and pushing forward.
One of the key principles of Agile is placing more value on the teams than on the processes and tools. This could be taken to a broader level and applied to most things you do within an Agile team. What is making you agile, as opposed to slow in response and stagnant in process, is being able to respond quickly and decide on where the valuable information is coming from.
Responding to change and making a difference quick is of the highest value when going from traditional to Agile. It's as if you were asked to point to the most time-consuming and wasteful practices the organization is now doing and got rid of them. So no planning years ahead, rigidly sticking to a plan that has already started to fail, valuing processes and plans more than people's insight into a project and customer's change requests. So, less bureaucracy and more actual result-making work.
How to effectively spread an Agile project onto the rest of the organization?
- Share results and enthusiasm
If the other teams care about the work - they will want to participate in this change anyway after seeing changes within your team.
- Talk about it informally
This should bring better results than making official recommendations and formal presentations of a new way of doing things. Much better to inspire, than to impose.
- Calculate the gain
..and present the numbers to high level officers within the company. Whereas teams respond to informal clues, the management is more inclined to be receptive to the strength of a data sheet showing comprehensive and persuasive information on the potential benefits.
- Forecast the changes
Play with the results and try foreseeing the other department's potential gains - following the "documented gains" data, it's perfectly normal to run an estimate of what can be achieved with x changes in x time. All you're doing is making an example of duplicating what the Agile project has achieved and anticipating a wider result.
- A welcome change approach
Present the changes as ones that will make lives easier for both the management and teams (because they will).
- Sneak in a suggestion
You can try complaining about what is not working and direct the attention to an Agile approach to the problem that might give a better result.
There are ways in which some Agile changes can be brought in without consulting the broad leadership - make them, whenever you see an opportunity. In the end - at this level – you're mainly helping and influencing yourself.
Most large organizations are struggling to become Agile, as it takes a lot of work from each individual that makes the company and – at the same time – is very hard work for the organization's cells and managers. You should keep in mind that it is the job of each of the employees to make the entire organization work a little better, but please don't expect the change to be quick.
To sum up - organizations can be Agile, and reflect the ways in which projects are Agile, for as long as each part of the organization is also as Agile. It's the kind of change that has to come from within, but as with most changes, it requires work and effort to remain permanent.
Kaizen: Make Time for Improvements09 Feb 2016
Part of running an Agile process is taking advantage of the continuous improvement opportunity, meaning making the process and product better with time. So, simplifying the process while increasing your response time and product / service quality.
Some of these changes can be introduced quickly and with little bother for the team, sometimes all it takes it making the change and notifying the team. Other improvements need time and planning to get done. The problem many organizations are facing is making time for identifying the improvement need, then designing and implementing changes. This seems to be a problem for small companies and vast corporations both. Where the small ones will be struggling to find the time to plan and make a change, the big ones will come across a ton of red tape slowing any change attempt down.
What are some things any process manager can do to squeeze a change in to make a change?
Eliminate and replace
Identify a wasteful part of the current process and recommend what else could be done with this time. If a recommendation is not enough - put an end to this part of the process and direct the team's attention specifically to another thing that needs to be done instead of this one.
Gain: If done right, you can kill two birds with one stone - remove a wasteful process part and introduce an improvement
Kill the "future" time
The larger the team the more likely it is that part of staff's routine will be planning future product features, analysis of possible ways of increasing sales, drawing up prognosis of all kinds. Whereas these are all great and often necessary exercises, there is a tendency to spend too much time on them. Limit the time allowed for this and limit the range of possible solutions teams can prepare for in detail.
Gain: Less time spent on possibly wasted and never implemented ideas, more time and energy available for current work.
Pausing for market feedback is time for in-house improvement
With any new product, there will be a time of a lot of new work needing done on it, and time to let things sit as are. If you know your market well enough to be able to anticipate when to build and when to wait for client response - you're in possession of key knowledge on when the entire team can pause and redirect their attention to making valid changes to the overall process or starting work on another thing entirely.
Gain: Knowing when to pause development and improve in-house works and processes can keep your team, focus and infrastructure up to date and gain time for requirements gathering altogether.
Analyse and kill the profitless items
Whatever it is that you're making or providing, there are definitely parts of it, whether it's a product feature, an entire service or else, that brings far less income than others. Measure this and stop work / support on the least profitable items.
Gain: More time for profitable work and making valuable changes.
Optimize the use of time
If, as a manager, you have a feeling you don't really know what the team are working on most of the time, things are bad. Get them to make their actions and processes transparent and accessible to the team. This really puts the pressure on getting to work on the valid items and taking responsibility for them. Kanban, Scrum and other visual methods really make this easy.
On top of this - try limiting the time allowed for all meetings and make use of 21st century technology to spread and get information.
Gain: Better use of time, clear insight into what the team works on - great way of identifying improvement opportunities.
Let the team know that their input matters
An empowered team is a stronger team, by all means. Who better to show you faults in the system than the parts of it? Listen to their feedback and take it on, as this is the essential source of information on what can be improved upon.
Gain: Stronger team and improved processes.
The hard-core approach
The popular Kaizen rule menitons "making the changes before you have to". But when push comes to shove and the need for change becomes too obvious to obscure an ignore any more, there is always the though way. This is minimizing all daily activities, keeping only the essential processes going and halting the less valid ones completely in order to just implement the change. May seem drastic, but works the treat.
Gain: Changes are made!
It's possible to make a jump from the above characteristics to summing them up in one final suggestion:
get more Agile. Hardly anyone can work on day-to-day tasks while keeping the big picture in mind.
Studies show that a change from process-centric systems to short iterations and item-driven approach is very welcome by all teams. You gain better focus, clearer objectives and higher goal reachability. Do keep in mind, that without making valid changes to the processes you and the team follow, it's more likely than not, that your services and products will decline in value. Staying aware of this should create enough motivation to find the time for a change.
Agile Kanban for Research Work20 Jan 2016
Research work, however fascinating and enjoyable, can be tough to organize into a structured process. And lack of a process more often than not leads to decrease in motivation, waste and difficulty in reaching a sense of accomplishment. It's fair to say that work, that has been forged into an easy to follow workflow tends to be easier to grasp, manage and complete.
Distribute focus and resources
Creating a process allows to divide focus between more than one project at a time - thanks to easy access to information on "where were we". Likewise, assigning team members, or teams to various ongoing projects is just as easy when all of the objectives and due dates are visualized in one place.
Plan & recap daily
It's useful to adopt the Daily Meeting, derived from a daily Stand-Up, typical for Scrum. During the meeting, team members brief each other on the 3 topics: what they've done lately, what will they be working on today and what are they having problems with. It's a quick and effective way of staying in the loop with the entire team.
Split subjects into items
It can be quite overwhelming to complete large tasks, or just go ahead with researching a huge subject. Building a step-by-step process makes research work more feasible and far less intimidating. Starting and stopping is then also much easier, as one look at the board brings you up to speed on what needs doing next. Should you run into trouble when trying to divide research work into pieces, a useful method is defining the decision making points as process step changes, thereby making the progress visible and measurable.
Divide and follow
Once a process is outlined and work items devised, assigning work to particular team members is a piece of cake. It also enables you to keep track of responsibility and speeds up the process of following team members progress and results, which helps a lot when it comes to crediting the work. When done with an interactive task management tool, this is then also a perfect platform for leaving comments, sharing documents and setting due dates and changing priorities. An enormous benefit of implementing this approach is having the information flowing through the system, shared by the team and accessible to all any time - a vital aspect of all research work.
Limit WIP = limit confusion
As with any Kanban driven process, an inseparable aspect of the method is placing a limitation on how many items can be progressed at any time. This is fantastic news for research workers, who can easily be overwhelmed when faced with numerous items, ideas at one time. Limiting the WIP allows them to place all attention on one item.
Improve time management
With all work items divided and assigned, and thanks to availability of metrics of the progress, it's easy to keep the team engaged and manage any waiting time, either by slotting in items from another project or by reassigning resources to another team.
Analyse and reboot
Having the progress of work at an arms length - ready for review at any point - creates an opportunity to measure the overall progress rate and better foresee an end date, as well as to risk-assess. Agile Kanban also brings constant feedback flow when it comes to what aspects of work can be improved upon, who is doing great and who needs a little more incentive.
There are research areas in which speed is of the essence, therefore the quicker you know of a problem, the better. An opportunity to always be improving the way you work along with making the best use of your time are also 2 aspects of Agile Kanban that your research team is bound to love.
There seems to be no real reason why a Kanban board would not bring benefit to academic or science research work. You can try it any time with a physical board and sticky notes, or with a digital Kanban Tool. But please keep in mind, that in order for this to work, the board has got to be regularly updated. It does come naturally as you get used to viewing it, but as with any habit, takes time to build.
Have fun doing your research with Kanban!
Time vs. Energy Management13 Jan 2016
What if the traditional time management techniques are not enough?
Once you've delegated all things you could have, resigned from doing those that you could let go of (non important and not urgent - hence redundant), and prepared a general schedule on how you're going to go about doing the work, then what? You still need to have a plan for tackling the tasks ahead, which will help bring about the best possible result.
What are the key 3 things to do? Consider using these:
Stack up your productivity spurts
Knowing, that you can only work effectively for so long, why not take advantage of this natural pattern and build productivity blocks to work in:
- start with 2-3 hours, followed by a 20 min break,
- then go for 2 hours with a 15 minute break afterwards,
- and finish off with 30-minute runs separated by 5 minute breaks.
This will both set a pattern of shortening time-frames ahead of you, and will facilitate a good way of making the best of your descending productivity & energy.
Align the productive blocks with task urgency
Despite the temptation to start the workday with the easiest tasks, it clearly makes sense to tackle the big, difficult and somewhat urgent work during the most productive period - which does fall to the morning for most. Also, if this pattern is followed, you can enjoy the way a day gets easier and lighter with each productive block. So, doing the tough work in the first hours, leaving the small, quick jobs to the last means that breaks get more frequent and work less difficult as the day progresses.
Sum up and plan ahead
As with any new strategy, it makes sense to add up the things you managed to do in a day, to get a glimpse of whether it works or not (pretty sure it will ;) While you spend the 5 minutes on it, you can also outline the key few things you'd like to accomplish the next day, to make the start of the next dat this little bit easier (we do this in the office with My Work widget).
Nobody's time management strategy is perfect, due to the fact that an x amount of unforeseen work can always crop up, but making good habits - such as quickly recognizing the difference between urgent and important or planning ahead and time-management of self - can only help. Try it!.
Kanban for UX Design: Great Match07 Jan 2016
User Experience design process may seem far from the original ideas that some people still associate with Kanban - manufacturing, stock management or software development processes.
The reason Kanban works for knowledge work too – with UX design being an example here - is thanks to Kanban's natural way of splitting even the most fluid and technically difficult to describe processes into visually distinct steps.
User experience design and monitoring process involves some unattainable values, such as "user happiness", "user's feelings towards the product". Furthermore, taking into account the difficulty associated with the very building of a system that would manage going through this design process – having process stages spelled out and visualized is what makes Kanban a great match to follow the UX design process with.
It can also be of great help when trying to set up a stable process for this kind of work. Starting with the basics, more steps and conditions can be added as you go and identify them. This bases on the same rule that Kanban's continuous improvement paradigm.
Understanding the problem
A typical approach to UX design starts with answering the question: "What problem are we trying to solve with this product?" Having a common place to store the possible ways of answering it, to comment and brainstorm on them is simply convenient. Answers can be given value points, counted, sorted and prioritized, which will make the next design stage all that much easier. Involving all of the team on a common speaking ground is key all the more in times of remote work and flexible working hours.
The ability to further extend the visual aspect of things
Thanks to task card attachments - since all information in visual form reaches our brains quicker and more effectively - adding visual attributes to the cards speeds the process further still. The serious UX design processes involve doing a whole lot of research before making technical design decisions. A visual board, accessed by all on the team is the perfect place to gather, share and analyse the research.
Instead of asking the team "how long till we see feature X?" - you're only taking a look at the board and all is clear. You also instantly gain knowledge of who to ask for any information about the process, since items on the Kanban board are usually user-assigned.
With process items always pasted on the board, teams and stakeholders can always jump in and make comments, ask for changes or review their suggestion' implementation with no problem. Having this visualized also gets rid of the issue of having to explain what you're referring to or searching for the right info or person.
Iterate and reuse
Most UX design processes go round and are being repeated after some time, which is why having the process recorded and visualized works perfectly for giving it another use after a set time had passed. Steps or whole processes can be even marked as standard, that require re-doing iteratively or are used for each product as a template.
A visual Kanban board is a great way of getting the UX design process set, up to date and successfully functioning. Do make sure to try integrating Kanban with all aspects of the process your product goes through, it will work magic in all stages, not only UX design!
Season's Greetings23 Dec 2015
The Kanban Tool Team is wishing you Happy Holidays and an impressively productive New Year!
Do enjoy the festive season and recharge your batteries for all of 2016 :)
Parkinson's Law CAN Work to Your Benefit16 Dec 2015
It is more less common knowledge, that all work can be stretched out for the time available for its completion - whether it's 2 or 5 hours - this is known as Parkinson's Law.
It can be astonishing, when you realize that that's an over 100% time difference, yet behaviour characteristic of settling on an assumption of how long something will take, and making this happen, are commonplace.
What causes this?
One reason it's happening is that we don't usually have an idea of how long particular tasks really take, so we feel that over-estimating will give is some space to figure things out first.
Also, there will be the statistical number of people who do it just because they are slow or don't really feel like pulling their weight.
So, is it possible to make the Parkinson's Law work to your advantage?
Increase your productivity - halve the time you normally would give yourself for a task, and test if it can be done in less than the norm. It probably can, and if the quality didn't suffer - you've just got twice as efficient as previously.
See how much faster you can be. If meeting deadlines is an issue, try setting even closer deadlines and treat racing towards them as if it was sport.
Pushing yourself for a little while may teach you that if a job can be pushed to be done in 30 min, and you normally take 120 min to do it, perhaps 60 min is the optimum you should aim for?
Experimenting is always beneficial.
Learn to spot when a task is actually useless in its majority. There are things we do out of habit more than necessity, like reading all of the emails or tracking the company social feed. You think it's important, so you allocate the first hour of the day for it, when in fact, usually half of the emails needn't be read in detail, and half of the other pile do not
need a reply.
Try assigning 10 minutes for all, instead of 60. It's very likely that you'll find that no harm was done, but a lot of time was saved.
The same will go for all meetings - half of the ones you go to, you don't need to be in, and many more shouldn't even be held. Never mind how long they last, the waste just keeps piling on.
Be tough: don't go, leave half-way through and if you feel that an email isn't worth reading - don't. You can be surprised how much time you'll end up with.
A great way to tackle your time consumption is timing and analysing it. Many people use the Pomodoro technique to set time limits, while others use the Time Reports to measure their progress over time.
The technology available is a good way to help out with this tricky issue. But first of all – just being aware of this rule is good start to making a change.
Agile Development - Best Practices09 Dec 2015
It is commonly believed that those of us who call themselves or are known to be perfectionists are more productive or better suited for efficient work.
While this does make sense on a logical level - since someone who puts a lot of attention on details must be good at what they do - it turns out to not necessarily be true.
Anxiety & Stress
These are the 2 definitive effects that the constant "having to meet the highest standard" is putting on people - even in meaningless situations the pressure is there to achieve the best possible result. This creates a constant worry, a
feeling of being obliged to do even more than your best.
Then there is the fear of turning average. Meanwhile being "just regular" has a number of benefits, that perfectionists are missing out on. Seems like a better idea to leave the unrealistic approach of having to be flawless and focus on just being good, but less anxious. Perfectionism-related anxiety can easily turn into depression, low self-esteem or worse and no doubt - none of these are adding to productivity.
Because even the smallest of insignificant detials needs to be attended to with the greatest of care and attention, the amount of time left to produce the really important work gets limited. Sure, the real work will be done with no miss, but the issue with not being able to weigh what matters and what doesn't is a valid problem.
Furthermore, people who get bogged down with the details can be seen as procrastinators - suppose the joke is on the perfectionists here, really.
The Failure Is Not an Option Trap
It's common knowledge, that in order to become really good at something you first need to make a few mistakes - this is the quickest way to learn, provided that you're paying attention.
Highly scrupulous people have a tendency to keep a flawless score of them not failing at something and therefore being the best. Once they do make a mistake - they leave the subject and move on to something else, because excelling at this one is no longer possible.
Because of that, it can be said that they are losing chance of getting really good at anything.
In other words - failing is the best opportunity to learn, not to quit. Failure is then also an everyday element of getting results.
Following the Leader
A compulsive best-performer may well have a will to stay in line with the boss' requirements to such an extent, that straying off the directed path is impossible or unthinkable. Even in situations in which this would be of benefit to the results. Sticking closely to the rules can be an actual limitation of how much and how well one can produce.
The Perfect tends to kill the innovative
Since a perfectionist has no room for a learning curve - all has got to be done right at first go - there is danger that any new idea or method will be squashed and let go of, before it has a chance to take root - just because of the fear of it not panning out and failing.
Innovation takes trial and error, with strong accent on error - as proven in a recent study. Innovation is an everyday part of doing things well and better with each attempt.
This extends further onto being apprehensive about starting a new challenge, career or even a hobby.
One-Area Focus adn Its Limitations
For people who tend to know they're good (or best more likely) in one area of their work, there is a trap of becoming self-satisfied and feeling that they have nothing more to learn in this department, leading to them becoming stagnant in an ever-changing environment.
Perfectionists' focus on the thing they know to do well also generates a limitation of the will to deal with other aspects of their work, which cannot be good, can it?
The DO IT YOURSELF Trap
With overachievers, there is a trend to not share the workload with others and keep all matters related to it to themself. This is meant to guarantee success and getting it done well and on time. Meanwhile, not letting others into a project and failing to cooperate can be damaging to any project - due to lack of multi-level perspective on a subject.
This DIY approach combined with the amount of high standard they exude plus the nervous atmosphere of having to maintain the very highest qulaity of all things cannot make you a fun person to be around.
This may seem harsh, but being likeable is big part of good teamwork, which, in turn, is a portion of being productive.
Although the search for perfection is a noble one, it seldom seems practical in a group environment. What then?
You may want to try a few approaches for getting rid of it:
- Lose the need and eye for it. Don't seek it
- Aim for good or done - complete - not for perfect. 99 times out of 100 it will be enough
- Compromise: with yourself, with others, with the work, with the standard. It can be learned. Aim for your perfection of normality. BEST of luck ;)
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The easy answer is "yeah, it is possible" - just like with anything else, all you need to get it done is put your mind to it. But the real question is: how to get this done without falling behind in the actual work? In other words - how to achieve a goal while making the process more efficient at the same time?
Import the mindset from elsewhere?
There are more than a few ways of getting there - the most popular one being an involvement of someone with such a mindset (you could call them Change Angents) to drive or manage a project and hope that they will lead the way in not just making the product, but in spreading the thought and value behind Agile among the team at the same time.
Although popular and easy, this is a risky method, as all one-man based experiments can be. With the long-term goal here being that a team adopts a new way of working, the danger lies in them not accepting the Agile Evangelist as their teacher. It's commonplace for people to resist change when it's being ladled on by a strong individual, and in the case of wanting to introduce a long-term change, it might be safer to get the team to adopt the new ways at their own pace.
A decision regarding the best choice would have to depend on the particular team build, nature and history of their attitude towards change.
Take the necessary steps
So, when looking into making the mindset more Agile, the first place you go to would be the Agile Manifesto. Here is what you're meant to be focusing on:
- People instead of processes
- Working product and not product documentation
- User collaboration rather than client negotiations
- Reacting to change over placing the "sticking to the plan" above all else.
These are the basic concepts of an Agile mindset. Keeping them in mind (or possibly on a board that is accessible to all team members at all times) makes it possible to be working on a product while trying to adjust the mental approach to being more Agile.
Who's keeping the AGILE SCORE then?
Seems easy enough, but when put to a test, this asks for being really self-conscious about what you're doing at all times. So, either at this point you have the dreaded Evangelist standing over the team and making objective observations and pin-pointing instances of a “non-agile” approach, or you assign someone from the team to be constantly taking a look at what the team is focused on.
Either way, someone will have to pay attention to this, writing the Manifesto on a whiteboard is just not enough.
What else are we meant to be doing?
The other necessary concepts which implementation makes teams Agile is the continuity of Integration, Delivery and Deployment.
This is the core of being Agile - with products being built in an automated way (integration), delivered at the customer's demand and deployed as soon as it is possible. Aside from the method of making this possible, this is how an Agile team can be recognized.
Same as before – it would take a special kind of team to just learn the rules and go ahead with making them reality. Someone will have to watch the team's proceedings and decide whether the all important concepts are being realized.
The last "crucial" thing to keep in mind is ensuring that the process you're creating is - just as before - continuously improved. Whether you keep retrospective meetings to assess the effectiveness of the process or you use some kind of an automated metric to measure the progress and throughput - you do need to keep an eye on whether the process is still
working in general.
This is being called keeping the process continuously improved.
The final question
It would seem then, that making this big change of implementing an Agile mindset is not possible without some kind of an outside oversight. Being faced with a choice of getting a team member to do the Agile Facilitator's work or employing an actual “Facilitator can be tough.
It appears, however, that this is the one choice you'll have to make in order to make the team Agile while completing a project.
One more thing - have you stopped to consider how else - if not in a real-project implementation - would an Agile mindset be adopted? Having np obvious answer should give you the necessary confidence boost to grab the team and go ahead with it!
One more thing - as soon as you get really good at delivering fast and efficiently, you may want to make sure that what you're making is still a demanded and well thought-out product. Just keep this in mind, otherwise you're very good at very efficient delivery of something that there is little need for, which is not ideal.
What Impacts Team Productivity the Most?18 Nov 2015
Making vs being present
It may seem obvious but leaving the team to just work is one of the key issues here. Different types of jobs demand different approach, and more often than not, the amount of work that can be done in a day will depend
highly on the daily work plan.
If the team's job is actually in making things (manufacturing, writing, programming, graphic or other design etc.) the most significant disturbance to their workflow will be meetings.
It is crucial then to either eliminate them completely, or bulk them into a compressed time-span of a half to 1 day a week of meetings and 4 days of actual "work" work. So, limit the time required to be spent on not working and eliminate the harmful "wasted" time which results from having to prepare for and await a meeting. This way, your team can get into their work completely and get a lot more done in less time.
That said, everyone does still need regular breaks.
We are humans. This means, that however professional and self-controlled or not, ours and other people's emotions do have an impact on what and how we do.
So, if a manager takes no care of what emotions and for what reasons are being displayed and radiated to the team, teamwork results may bring no satisfaction. The role of a team manager is to lead, correct and facilitate. The emotions brought in with the management actions make a huge impact.
For instance, anger expressed after a project gone bad will be remembered by the team and will certainly make difference to the way the team acts during the next project. And it does not necessarily mean they will try harder.
Not meaning to say no emotions should be part of the management process, but knowing which of them will improve the situation at what point is crucial.
The difficult people
All teams have some. It's the guy who always buries your idea out of the need to be the top dog at all times, or that irritating girl who annoys you with her personality alone to an extend, where you just don't even hear what she has to say. Or the pessimist who always assumes nothing will get done on time and comes up with reasons for why it won't, rather then with ways of making it work.
It can be a good idea to just avoid direct confrontation with these and similarly annoying kinds of people. Keep them at a distance - stick to email exchange, messenger communication or a task management tool which makes room for comments to each issue.
By keeping them away, you will get to focus on the merit of the communication, rather then personality or approach. Get the data and process it with no imprint of their spin on it.
That way, by respecting their personal qualities (keeping them away) you get the benefit of their actual work. Seems like a win-win situation.
Oh, and worry not - there is always someone who will see you as the difficult one, who needs to be managed. That's just the way it is.
The space and time
Because we are all different, it's hardly ever the case that an entire team will be comfortable and happy keeping the same office type, room or working hours.
This is why it makes sense to keep some of the office space adjustable - different kinds of seating arrangements, sofas, standing desks etc.
Moreover, some of the modern approach companies allow for the team to set their own working hours. Keeping in mind that there is some overlap in the working time of the team members that do need to see each other - why wouldn't this be a good idea for the early birds to come in at dawn and to let the sleep-in types to come in at lunch time?
Provided that all in the team are able to reach their maximum productivity, the overall teamwork and final product should benefit.
Surely, there are plenty more factors when it comes to team productivity, but getting the above 4 checked to a sensible level, your team's chances of succeeding will grow.
How to Get Good at Project Management?05 Nov 2015
Nowadays, we are all project managers, anyone new can become one and each of us has an event from the past that we can look back at and say: "I was so project-managing that". But this does not mean that we are all great at it, nor that it's a piece of cake. Does it?
What makes one a good project manager then?
If your communication skills are poor you can still be a PM. But you'll probably be the worst one ever. Coordinating people's work and efforts, solving conflict and dispensing praise or reprimand are all based on the ability to communicate well: to the point, effectively and with respect for the others.
This follows on the need to communicate well - being good with people and knowing your way around different personality types and traits is necessary to motivate the team in the right way, to resolve all kinds of issues and read people - know what they're saying no matter how they phrase it.
What can be crucial here - according to Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers book - is having high emotional intelligence.
All teams are built of people, and all people come with flaws and imperfections, hence a good manager needs to be prepared for hold-ups, mishaps and a whole load of delays. Discipline is important and needs to be plainly demanded, but the PM's schedule has got to take a foreseen delay margin into account. This is what facilitates a PM to afford being flexible.
This can range from budget issues to quality assurance or hr matters. You need to know enough about every aspect of the team's work to not get caught out.
Not just for the team, but for self as well. The point that needs underlining here is that it pays to focus on results rather than the process.
Lead vs. Direct
Managing a team is not equal to giving leadership. An experienced PM will know the difference and know which approach to apply in what matter / with which team member.
Common Sense & Practice
No job involving contact with other people can be done without common sense. Make sure you have it and keep it, despite bearing the title of a Project Management ;)
Other than these – it's like anything else - the more you do, the better you become, yet mistakes are made and it's them that teach you best. Keep testing yourself and one day you'll be your team's favourite PM.
Chaos Theory vs. Agile Task Management 28 Oct 2015
The Chaos Theory has been a functioning term for over 3 decades now. It indicates, that in each organized system, there will be a time and place for a sporadic manifestation of a disrupted pattern, irregularity, chaos.
When looking at company management, this pattern does not have to be a bad thing. Man-filled businesses are non-linear systems, in which small action can cause great delay and an enormous change may have no effect whatsoever.
Chaos theory, when applied to such, has been known to cause panic and was initially dubbed "a step back" from day-to-day micro-management. Nowadays, we're finding, that it can be beneficial to allow people to retain the chaos and self-organize.
A kind of organization, that allows for people and groups to self-organize can be known as a "fractal" organization.
From a traditional standpoint, they would be impossible to maintain, as business owners require plans, estimations, accountability reports, pure structural organization implemented and so on.
By allowing teams to create their own order and system, management fears loosing control over what the workforce are doing. But that does not have to be.
With a little effort, people can indeed be left to themselves, self-organize, self-manage and self-assess, to cultivate creativity, free will, self-motivation and great job satisfaction. And what follows these is high productivity.
What needs to be done to make this happen?
- a vision that is consistent throughout an entire organization must be clear and known to all within its reach
- effective leadership should be in place. Leadership meaning a person or people directing teams towards a goal common for the organization, not micro-managing them
- the keeping of a culture of respect and trust should be prioritized
- lines of communication on all organizational levels should be open and accessible
There is a distinct link between Chaos Management and Agile Kanban method.
Agile Kanban teams are self-organized by design, meaning that a well-functioning Agile Team is effectively running chaos management. Doing Kanban is a perfect facilitator of experimenting with chaos theory in an organization.
The idea of using the pull method to self-assign work as and when required, pairs with the clarity a Kanban board brings to the onlookers. The ongoing tasks are readily available in the system, and people availability can be visualized just as well. After an iteration, there is an opportunity to analyse the happenings and see how well the team did, what can be improved upon and what didn't work at all.
Thanks to a good task visualization, managing unforeseen jobs is also easier. Whether you assign a person to do all "unplanned" work of a day, and let the others carry on uninterrupted, or use a priority or color-coding system to notify of an emergency, it's much easier to manage chaotic environment by placing a visualization of it in front of everybody.
A Seemingly Chaotic Pattern Can Still Work
In other words, chaos is fine and perfectly manageable, for as long as the people facing it know what they're doing. It matters not if a by-stander cannot make heads or tails of the process by watching it.
The point is to let the people think and decide for themselves.
By letting them be and pick their own work, you are empowering them to take action and feel personally responsible for the result.
Why Does It Make Sense to Play Video Games?21 Oct 2015
If you ever got hooked on a game, you'll know what it's like to switch off and dive into another world completely
.. for hours. And to not regret it.
And even if you're looking back at the countless hours you've spent doing this and think: "I could have learned to speak Chinese in that time", there are certain benefits that playing video games cultivates.
To name some of them:
There is interesting scientific research showing that spending time playing video games can help to improve your multi-tasking skills.
That's a given, as being quick with the keyboard is often the key to success in gaming.
In multi-player games, where the team has a shared goal, learning to do things together and efficiently is crucial. Aside from this, multi-player gaming is a fail-safe way of making friends.
Strategy and thinking ahead
Many of the video games teach players to think strategically and make attempts to foresee the next moves. This cannot be a bad thing to learn. Of course, games teach planning up to a point. The option to start over and
a lasting display of "X lives left" are not that educational.
Analytical and creative thinking
Sure, there are the "mindless" types of games, that base on doing no more than pressing buttons at the right times. But the most playable games will require the player to actually do some thinking, analyse his moves and predict those of the opponent. More then often players will be asked to come up with the solution themselves, which exercises creativity greatly.
Adaptation to failure
Thanks to the inevitable amount of losing a video game player is bound to do, one gets to know the taste of failure from the earliest age. This will help in all life situations.
By watching and analysing the way defeating bosses and getting achievements motivate you to carry on playing, one gets to understand the clever ways of grading product gratification and building up enjoyment and product loyalty. Seeing that almost any industry you look at has a marketing and sales angle to it, acquiring this knowledge early on has a certain benefit to it.
An undeniable benefit of video game playing is the distressing done while in play. Sitting down to a video game creates a boost of positive energy, engaging the player optimistically, getting them ready to take any problem on, and mentally appointed to succeed.
This is a great exercise for the brain, since the more you practice feeling relaxed and successful, the higher your chance of retaining that attitude. So, game on!
Is Your Group Actually a Team?15 Oct 2015
A group of people working along is not necessarily a team, is it? If all that brings them together is the same manager or a shared office, and none of their actions align towards a common goal, chances are, a work-group is all they make.
Should it be though, that you have a shared goal to achieve, or that actions of one are highly influencing the ones of another, the indication is, that you may be working as a team. Why is it important to know the difference? If what you've got is a working group, convinced they are a team, their goal setting and their execution are likely to be hurting the workflow and productivity.
Some good ways to avoid this misunderstanding include understanding the following:
The team leader's role
It doesn't take genius to see, that if a team leader actually runs the show and directs the members, they are all parts of a
group in which no-one - apart form the leader - has a decisive role. Should it be though, that the leader helps out, manages
conflicts and makes suggestions and all on the team are empowered to take a stand - they may actually be a team.
It may well be, that when a good team gets to work, they require no management at all - people will find their roles, whereas in a group, it's often necessary to assign work and coordinate people.
You look at a team at work, and see a constant battle of views. Realizing the difference between a constructive and
destructive conflict is key here. If people keep fighting to preserve their view, or - even more likely - their position in
the group, and are reaching no conclusion (strongest wins), we cannot be talking of teamwork.
If, however, the different views bring in new perspectives, allow the group to see a problem in new light and to reach a common, best solution - without bringing personal accreditation into it - they are working as a team and thereby are being creative together. Conflict, when approached right, can be the best motor for development.
If you're not with us - you're against us
That's a tough one: you can forget about creating a good team if there is no trust between the team members. Obvious as
this may sound, building trust within a team is most difficult.
Having a trusting team means being able to express doubts, admit mistakes and ask for help. In other words, it means working as one organism, of which certain parts will fail and know other will pick them up, and admitting that they are all codependent.
Once this level of trust is achieved, a team is able to work towards the same thing together - not one against each other. If you've got this, success is close. After all, the purpose of building a team is to achieve more than any one individual could do on their own.
Get the priorities right
From the highest organizational level, team leaders are likely to be part of a department team, but they can remain focused on their team proceedings and are more than likely to view the department level from the lower team'a perspective. It's important to keep in mind, that the goals of a higher management should be prioritized, as even the best lower level team cannot dictate the direction of an entire organization. So, you may be a great team, but you're still a part of a larger one!
Why is Kanban Right for Product Development?08 Oct 2015
Kanban is a mean of facilitating getting things done, meaning it provides a working and verified way to run processes, but it will not, however, give tips on what to build.
Keeping that in mind, it's still safe to say, that knowing the right way to get somewhere is a crucial part of achieving anything.
So, once you have a product idea, applying Kanban makes sense.
This is how this should work:
From an overview to details
Map out your overall product strategy - plan what you are going to build at which point of your journey. Although not necessary, can be done perfectly well with a Kanban board, which is basically built of a "maybe someday", "future product plans", "verified plans for the next 5 years", "this year" and so on.
It boils down to having an idea of where you want to go, when and at what means. Once you're down to this year or quarter level, you can move into a more detailed board.
This one will have a variation of the following steps (depending on the specific organization standards):
- gathering requirements plus their verification
- drafting a strategy and assigning resources
- building the product
- preparing a marketing strategy (if different from usual)
- testing and verifying the initial result
- broader group testing, troubleshooting and defining requested changes
- second build and verification
- feedback analysis and planning of future improvements.
Benefits of Kanban for product development
A version of the above system can be applied to most industries, and works more than well on a Kanban board.
The great benefit of going with a visual board is the ability to review the previous steps at any point, so that all if the information remains available to all on the involved team.
Further benefits of applying Kanban to product development include:
- a sense of being in a flow of a process, hence of getting somewhere
- clear indication of what to focus on next
- seeing the big picture gives a sense of contributing to a broader goal, fuelling job satisfaction
- the ability to always take a look what's been recently done - and in what amount - helps to motivate the team, whereas in a single task assignment system, both the sense of accomplishment and the notion of being a part of a larger thing are lost
- a Kanban - based system is possible to scale, it may require a trained professional to do this for large teams, but is definitely achievable. You can either go with expanding the process to oversee multiple projects or with duplicating processes for different projects and managing them separately.
- it empowers the team by letting them pull work items themselves
- improved reliability, release planning and predictability, thanks to the available board analysis and an overview of the progress
- last, but not least - no more wasteful multi-tasking, thanks to WIP limits.
Kanban is a system dedicated to visualizing work and identifying issues in the workflow. Therefore, it\s a good fit for product development, letting all on the team get a quick overview of the process, instant information on what should get done next and easy to spot bottlenecks identifiers.
The point is to allow teams to focus on the work and product, and leave the process system in the background. With the little maintenance that Kanban requires this is not difficult to achieve.
Why Does Language in Business Matter?30 Sep 2015
Don't you find, that often the way something is being said makes more impact than the merit of that communication? How by saying something in a specific manner and using particular wording can very much change how a message is received and seen?
This is a very powerful strategy to use in business, in communication with team, business partners and customers.
How to maximize your chances of making those business relations better via language?
A helpful "exercise" in growing your word bank is reading in general, as well as reading publications specific to the industry.
It's also good to know most common abbreviations, although best not to use them in contact with those likely not to know their meaning. Why build unnecessary barriers?
Also, viewing business shows on tv or internet can be of use here, as it presents various examples of applications of business wording.
Don't forget that we never communicate with speech alone. No-one is going to trust what you're saying if you don't look a person in the eye or don't even turn your head from the computer screen while in conversation.
With body language you can either reinforce your communication or weaken it. Meaning, when you know HOW to use it, it can work to your advantage in all kinds of situations.
Written Communication Issues
Straight away, let's agree, that a business person, using incorrect grammar or making typos in NOT going to be taken seriously. It's dead easy to avoid and fix these issues (spell-check?), yet we all see them every day.
It never hurts to read what you've written before you send it off. This could be the easiest way to avoid a number of potential issues, not just spelling-related.
A deeper issue is learning how not to sound negative, even when what you're saying is in fact a reprimand. This takes a conscious effort to adopt, but can be learned and be beneficial.
For instance, why say: "How much longer am I going to have to wait for those documents?" when you could say: "Have you come across any difficulties when preparing the documentation?".
Sure, you don't have to mean you're going to help out with getting the work done, but by asking in a helpful manner, you're sending the very same message, but in a better way.
Why So Serious? Why So Speedy?
Things go better, when people are at ease, and some will be more likely to get relaxed at work than others. Using humour to lighten the mood or calm somebody down is always a good thing.
More importantly though, try slowing your speech down and avoid raising your voice at any cost, not to increase anyone's stress levels furthermore. Calm people tend to be more convincing and successful, anyway.
Language is a concept that involves 2 sides by default, hence - speaking of language and communication - it would hurt not to mention the importance of allowing the other side to speak and get a chance to react.
Show respect for other people by listening, don't just keep talking.
With improved teamwork and more fruitful relationship with customer at stakes, taking a shot at getting better at communication seems worth going for, doesn't it?
Is a business only as good as the people creating it?
While a discussion on this may last a while, it's safe to assume that people are a significant part of business success. And if so, would it not make sense to provide the workforce with all the tools and conditions necessary to make their efforts best facilitated and flexible? What are some of the best ways to make this happen?
Try making them both flexible and sensible.
Make your work space accommodating, pleasant and welcoming. Whether the team realizes and voices this or not, this has a huge impact on their approach. Also, a policy of allowing to work from home seems to be getting the standard and has been proven to actually increase employee perfromance.
Provide appropriate devices and modern, reliable services for the team to do their job right, to be able to make their teamwork, communication and information sharing as efficient as can be. In short - don't waste the team's time and effort on making their computer work right.
Ask team's opinion
... and take it on board - a good way to do so is holding regular meetings, during which each of the team members has a chance to have their say. Perhaps get the team members to hold meetings on a rotative basis, giving each a chance to run one and direct it to an area problematic for them. Still, getting the team to post their comments and issues in a communication platform can be just as effective.
Give the team space to learn new skills and develop their career - including support for employees wanting to go back to university or take on a brand new course.
It's often omitted, but very effective when given for success, but also when acknowledging that failure is a valid experience, that can and shall inspire improvement.
Whether it's management that sets these, or the employees themselves, it's good to make sure that they are there.
Last, but not least - empowerment
A well tested (Effect of Empowerment on Employees Performance) and confirmed way of making the team focused on getting good results and job satisfaction at the same time is making them 100% responsible for the work they do. As soon as an employee takes full responsibility, what follows is being fully in charge of all actions and consequences. This is a fantastic time saver as well, as no layer of steps between processes and team members slows the process down - one task - one employee - one decision maker and performer in one.
What should we look out for
... while making sure the team has all they need to be good at their jobs?
- Balance the organization and workforce needs, as business is a priority here - after all.
- Make recruitment policies and strategies very fine tuned, as this is the first step to getting quality candidates and select the best suited talent for a job, avoiding waste of time on ineffective workforce.
Keeping the balance between happy teams and successful businesses may not be easy, but it's definitely worth aiming for!
Team Management: Communication IS the Key16 Sep 2015
Lack of dialogue within teams often gets mentioned as key to company failure, slow growth and significant employee turnover. Although we all know how important it is, it may not be as easy as it seems to get team communication right.
Initial communication and the team's input in the early project stages is characteristic of an Agile approach. The teams are built as interdisciplinary. This allows for people coming from different aspects of the work to express their specialized views of an idea early on, helping to avoid easy mistakes and see the limitations before too much work gets done. Likewise, having the idealists, the techs and marketers present in the first stages of a process can help to direct a product more towards a desired, saleable goal in a sensible way.
For as long as you have good communication channels open, the team has a sense of begin able to fix and address any issues straight away, which results in fewer delays and surprises.
Good communication will alspo result in team development, as a positive role model of a team leader will be inspiring and breed learning will in the team.
Likewise, lack of open communication will cause the team to be stagnant, to possibly keep new concepts to themselves, meaning both the individuals and the group stop growing.
Making ”what we are all working towards” shared knowledge among the team saves endless hours of employees wasting time trying to figure things out for themselves, or misunderstanding their roles and doing the wrong or unnecessary things.
This also goes back to team empowerment - people who know the goal are better equipped to providing good solutions and taking responsibility for them.
As always, has got to be coming from top levels. So the team leader has to be communicating, and doing it well, in order for the team members to see the value and adopt the behaviour. Communication is effective, when a mutual understanding between all involved is achieved.
It's common for teams to be encouraged to socialize after hours, as this is one of the best ways to build understanding and ease of information delivery among colleagues. Whether you want to include higher management in that too, is up to you. Chances of making communication channels better this way are most likely equal to losing an element of respectability and rank, often needed at those high positions.
Removing these is a big part of making this work, so ensure the ways to get one's thoughts and opinions across are known to all on the team. Also, keep sensible, workable policies on addressing any miscommunication issues in place.
The mythical & the obvious
As far as communication mythology goes, the prominent one are meetings. Holding these does not mean you're communicating, nor that you're doing it well.
It's common knowledge by now that most meetings are a waste of time, bring no value nor make things clearer. Much better to communicate online, also leaving a trace of what's been said and decided usable for future reference. Using online communication tools also takes care of delivering a message to any number of team members at the same time.
Listening - please, do not (ever) forget, that the crucial part in communication is listening and reaching conclusions. This is the point. Get people's views, do a quick analysis and make decisions based on this. Talking to people is not just about the exercise of talking, is it?
Pay attention to the feedback you're getting on information sharing patterns, to see what can be done better.
How to Assess Your Business Agility?09 Sep 2015
Is making a business Agile as simple as getting a visual board, assigning the tasks to the team and
reviewing the process every once in a while? Surely, for some lucky ones!
But for those having to manage a large bunch of people on a team, an ever-demanding group of customers and a constantly evolving process - things get complicated and need keeping an eye on.
Here are some pointers as to what should be checked for, when doubting your Business Agility.
Are you setting the workload in such a way, that will allow for the overall goal to be visualized and achieved within a given time? This helps to assess how much a team can get done in a certain time, hence find out what can be expected in general from the team in the future.
The iterations are normally time-boxed, in a more or less rigid way.
BEST PRACTICE: Put a focus on delivering often, but in small packages.
In software development, which is a clear originator for Agile, it has become common practice to write user stories. These are feature or product characteristics, stating how something should look, behave or work. Written from a user perspective, they put emphasis on what needs to be accomplished in the final product.
BEST PRACTICE: Ensure each story completion before getting into the next.
Check if you're balancing the new work with the demand of the customer. Often times, while making the process perfect, teams lose focus of what was it that the customer asked for initially.
BEST PRACTICE: Update them regularly (a shared calendar is also a good common practice), as nothing is worse for a client, than staying in the dark.
These should be either eliminated - seen more and more - or kept to a minimum, as in a daily stand up meeting, which does not last longer than 15 minutes and aims at only touching base.
BEST PRACTICE: The fewer meetings, the better.
Ensure the team knows the ways and channels to communicate, as this helps to keep the work flowing with few hiccups, and makes the team stronger.
While on the subject, it's necessary to ensure that everyone in an organization speaks and understands certain terms in the same way. Especially important for the "done", "feedback" and "approved" terms.
BEST PRACTICE: Promote communication, define your "done" stage.
As new work gets done, there should be an accompanying documentation to go with it. This allows to trace back the team's steps and keep track of how things have been done, useful for both records and future improvement.
This is particularly valid for keeping track of common issues and periodically occurring problems (bugs).
BEST PRACTICE: Keep the way of documenting the processes unified throughout the organization and make sure people use it.
Most Agile teams keep track of the work on some sort of a visual board. While this is all great, game-changing and welcome, it's good to keep in mind, that it's actually the people that drive the process, not the other way round.
Also, this touches on a good practice of letting teams self-organize and choose their participants, rather than having them assigned from outside.
BEST PRACTICE: Focus on the people, not on the process.
Power to the Team
If the deadlines are to be met and the process is to be improved continuously, the team needs to know that they can make their own decisions. There needs to be a feeling of task ownership and responsibility, of course.
BEST PRACTICE: Product Owner, Project Sponsor, Scrum Master etc. are required to be actual working titles, not just labels, that have no added sense of power.
Keeping a Score
With Agile practices, more often than not, there come analysis of the progress. Whether it's an entire set of charts, or just one burn-down chart or a cumulative flow, the point is to gather and keep the information on the performance for both present and future analysis.
BEST PRACTICE: Perform an analysis once weekly and monthly - seeing things from a perspective is always beneficial. Don't limit the results to management only (remember empowering the team?).
Feedback Loops & Retrospectives
In order to keep the process Agile, it cannot get stale. Both your customers and team members need to be asked for feedback, which will allow to make necessary improvements.
It's important to keep in mind, that in situations, when criticizing is necessary, a great approach is in keeping the comments focused on an idea, a practice or activity, and not the person.
BEST PRACTICE: Make a habit of periodical look-back meetings, and don't make them personal.
Some more important than others, all of the above are characteristic Agile best practices, which can indicate how Agile your business actually is, or can point you in the right direction, when the practices got lost along the way.
Learn to Delegate: You Know You Want to..26 Aug 2015
Starting at team leading or project management level, the amount of work that needs handling requires taking some serious steps. One way could be getting an assistant, another can be delegating some tasks to the team. The higher your level of influence within an organization, the more likely you are to have to pass on part of your tasks. Having problems getting the process started?
This is particularly tricky for those who pay a lot of attention to details, who have to always stay in control, or are unable to trust anyone beside themselves.
The letting go part
The absolute key to making delegation work is in talking goals not methods. Do not advise or suggest a good way of getting a job done, just get a message of what it is that you want across. Write down the key points - goals that you wish for the delegate to achieve, and when receiving the work back, check against these and try staying objective. If the goals have been met, stay off getting into how was this done exactly, as this becomes irrelevant.
An obvious, albeit important aspect of successful work delegation is practicing and perfecting one's people soft skills. The sooner you get started, the more prepared to delegate you will be next time round. Remember to thank the team members for accepting the responsibility you've given them, and do give credit for the work when the time comes to do so.
It is recommended that the approach you take here is a teaching one. When passing duties on less experienced team members, you need to take this very inexperience into account. Obviously, the tasks will take longer to be completed and there most likely will be place for mistakes and misunderstandings, and it is your role to be prepared for this and to handle it well.
The overall result will be in the team growth and people's development and, hopefully, self-realization.
As easy as it may sound, an important part of any kind of issues with delegating work is keeping good communication going. People are people, and without enough communication lines open between them, even the easiest of tasks can be problematic. A valid factor in making delegation work is setting clear boundaries regarding how much assistance (if any) you are ready to deliver. Discussing what is going on is not the same as telling people how to do what they need to.
Who to delegate to?
When trying to decide who will be the best fit for a job, take into consideration the available candidates' experience, current workload, and the style of their work - decide if this matches the nature of the work you want them to do. It's also good to have basic awareness of a
person's independence levels.
A great way to make matching of the tasks to the best person is actually involving the team in the process, asking them to pick their tasks - not unlike when doing Kanban. This may give good indication of who is best suited for which types of work. Can also make more than less of the team members happy with their tasks.
What's best not to delegate
Even though some tasks may seem small and light, there are those that despite their lightweight nature should be handled by yourself, if their impact will pose onto the organization's (and possibly yours) long-term success. It's a valuable skill - knowing which of the tasks fall into this category. With enough experience, you will know.
If the previous had not been enough yet, here is final piece of advice: try saying goodbye to any perfectionism you may be breeding. This will make delegating an awful lot easier ;)
Why Isn't My Kanban Working?19 Aug 2015
Over, beyond and nowhere near the WIP limits
As you're probably aware, there are 2 main principles to implementing Kanban - workflow visualization and limiting the work-in-progress. The best lesson for anyone who might be interested in improving their processes with Kanban is that the two basic rules are equally important. So, for as long as you've made the team use a Kanban board, you need to make sure that they are also applying the WIP limits.
Otherwise, all that the team is doing is visualization of their chaotic process, in which multi-tasking and no prioritization are an everyday occurrence.
Having the team follow a healthy WIP limit ensures that things get finished, and facilitate much better working conditions to ensure a higher quality of work.
Visualize a process means visualize YOUR process
Let's go back again to the first Kanban rule - process visualization. When you're first getting started with Kanban, what you're asked to do is ..carry on doing exactly what you did up until now, but put it all on a board. Right here is where many people go wrong already, by making
things up. Instead of actually visualizing what they do, they design a process that they very much wish to have, thus ensuring Kanban failure for themselves.
If you're going to follow the board and get benefit from doing so, there needs to be place for honesty. Obviously, if the board doesn't represent the process you go through at work, it will bring absolutely no value.
Make sure that the process you keep on the board is the one that the team carries out, not something they think would look good.
A frozen Kanban board is not a good sign...
If a Kanban board represents a process (something that evolves, transitions and moves),
seeing the same board state for a longer period of time does not indicate well. Updating
the board as often as necessary is the crucial step you need to take in order to make it work.
The board is a living visualization of what the team is up to, therefore ensuring
it is kept updated increases their chances of indeed getting things done.
Making the board look like the picture of what is going on may seem like hard work to some. It is, however, a non-negotiable step along the road to a working Kanban.
Training required to follow the board?
A good way of checking the health of the system is finding out how much time a new employee
spends on getting to learn the Kanban process followed by a team they're joining. If there is a day
assigned for this, chances are that the process has got out of hand a bit.. The less is
more tendency applies to Kanban boards and cards very well.
The simpler a board looks & the cleaner the cards are - the better the chances that a process is followed, understood and ..working. Of course, this will depend very much on the process itself, but applying a rule to keep all information to a minimum always brings results.
Ensure the process steps are understood, even for a bystander, and keep the cards clean and tidy. Less IS more.
The role Kanban plays
Kanban is not an answer to every question your team and customer will ever pose. It's a very effective method for making a process, and making one that works. But it will not think for you, it will not perfect itself, it will, however demand constant attention, update and periodical re-thinking. Getting a Kanban board set is only the beginning of something good, it's not the final solution to the problem of sustaining a working process.
Whether you use a physical or digital board, making changes to the process flow should always be possible, easy and seen as a good thing, aimed at getting a clearer picture of what you're doing, and striving for better results.
Best Ways to Develop Self-Discipline11 Aug 2015
Self-discipline is one of the qualities that has got to be taught, we're not born with it, and the level at which you've got it right now is merely a result of your past experience, education and upbringing. But, since it has to be learned, it's never too late to learn it some more! How to get this sorted?
Whatever it is that you want to achieve as the end result, practice of the very core of self discipline is key. One of the best ways to do this is making yourself short of the very things you fear losing or cannot be without. So, if you're a smoker, try not smoking for a set time, or - at the least - extend the periods between smokes to the maximum bearable limit. Like junk food - stop eating it for a week (or day).
Doing little things like this will make the very core of your discipline - willpower - strong. After all, as researched willpower is not a character trait, it's more of a muscle that does need practice.
The right motivation
Match the type of motivation to the kind of work you do. For instance, money motivates best for physical work, whereas a sense of autonomy and freedom are more suitable motivators for knowledge-based and creative work, which usually require more of an inner motivation to begin with. So, as long as you start right, i.e. by having the right reasons for doing what you do, your chances of succeeding are strong. It may even turn out, that you'll feel as though you're having fun doing what you do.
Making it handy
When trying to learn new things and basically change old habits, it's a great idea to limit temptations. For instance - a good trick is doing little things like leaving the smart-phone in the car, but bringing a book in. Chances are this will result in you not feeling like going back to get the mobile to update the social media, as it will be more convenient to just pick up the book and read it. Point here being - know your pitfalls and trick yourself to avoid them.
It's often that we make rash decisions when we get pushed, worried or otherwise stressed. Another great example of practising self-discipline is gaining full control of your emotions and actions at those moments. If you can control yourself then, doing this at a regular time will not be so hard. And, of course, give yourself a chance to learn this - don't give up after failing to stay cool just once..
Put some focus on making the difficult things you have to do easier to embark on, by creating as many habits of them as possible. Then, rather than having to force yourself to get them done, you'll be doing them somewhat subconsciously, since they'll be something you're used to doing.
Keeping the head on
An appropriate amount of focus is indeed needed to get something done, particularly when talking getting disciplined. You do, however, still need to function normally – eat well, sleep regularly and have fun. Setting up some rewards for achieving a milestone, or seeing a noticeable difference in your behaviour patterns is a good reason to party. So, remember to relax and keep your head on.
This does work for some, and ..not so much for others. Giving the world a shout about what you're going to achieve in a given time can be the best motivation. You don't want to look like a blabbermouth now, do you? Making your prospect plans public creates a sense of accountability, which may be motivating, it is however quite external. So, get your goals on facebook, or ..suffer it alone.
Or ..getting radical:
There are some, who think that no matter what you do to get motivated and disciplined, the results will only be temporary. Meaning - if you're going to get something done - just do it, as the proposed best approach. Perhaps this does work, but dare you try?
Do Less, but Better - a Lean Workflow05 Aug 2015
With all the talk and fuss about Lean and Agile, do you ever wonder what is the actual point here? Some may say it's getting a more efficient workflow, achieving better results or improving the team's performance.
What if we agreed, it's about doing less work but of a better quality? As the doing less concept always sounds good, let's explore further.
Working along the lines of Lean, the aim is to keep the procedures and goals as closely down to the business point as possible. Meaning excluding all of the actions that bring no value to the process nor to the end product or service. All of these are being considered waste. So, the goal is limiting waste. This is easiest achieved by stripping the process of any unnecessary steps (e.g. writing status and performance reports or holding meetings for any simple reason) and putting emphasis on what really brings the team closer to the end result.
Another brilliant approach to making the process Lean is combining all of the stages into one common workflow, thereby informing the entire team of the way the process goes, giving them insight into their role and its influence on the other team members. This brings an empowerment and a definite sense of task, job, product ownership, which is more than a positive aspect of getting things done. Feeling gratified by the work we do is an indispensable aspect of getting happy employees, and happy people tend to be more productive.
Once the whole team is involved in one workflow, a sense of community and cooperation should get more prevalent. Moreover, the process gets streamlined, as thanks to the fact that it is aligned to meet one set of criteria and reach a common goal in the end, the process steps can be better suited to the needs and adjusted more easily.
Common workflows are most easily implemented with aid of a task board, that follows either Scrum, Kanban or Scrumban process methodology, as they greatly facilitate one-flow processes. These processes allow people to stay on the same page as far as current information goes, see the status for specific tasks immediately and be able to share the work in an evenly distributed fashion.
Try setting up a Kanban board for your team to see which of the things you do bring no value and can be easily discarded, then replaced by something more productive. As you follow a certain task along the process lines and later analyze the impact it had on the overall outcome, you shall be able to decide which of the things you do could be left out.
So, Lean is a great way of getting to do less, and putting more focus on the items that really make a difference. Find out more on how to set up a simple Kanban board. Save yourself some time!
Different types of work demand different environments, surely. But if there was one quality that benefits any work space, what would it be? Good, positive energy? Serious teamwork tools? A friendly manager? Decent coffee? Perhaps the quiet? Let's explore the possible implications of working in a quiet office.
Absolutely no need to convince anyone of the fact that it is much easier to focus on a task in a quiet room, rather than in a loud one. We're not built to produce high quality work when jammed in a room with a bunch of speaking people - which is one of the main reasons why the huge open space offices are quickly leaving the scene, getting replaced with flexible office arrangements.
There is a common conviction, that it is only the guilty and unsure of what they're doing, that need to talk constantly, as if working off their need to prove that what they do makes sense and brings value to the overall process. It makes sense then, that the quiet people simply get on with the work, confident of what they're trying to achieve.
Being quiet promotes staying calm and composed. These, in turn, should result with faster work, higher work quality and far less stress, which has a productive value of its own. There is always the odd employee, who thrives in a stressful environment, but this type of a person is most likely a rarity (excluding stock broker types of profession, where quiet offices would never work anyway).
In the quiet, the tendency is to actually think before speaking. Also, the less time and energy spent on talking, the more energy is left to think, isn't there? When quiet, you get a chance to think a matter through and reflect on its nature, whereas a loud "action-man" could have skimmed over the surface without reaching the core of a problem.
Reflection and analysis
With a typical, loud group activity, there is often no time to really know what you think about the discussed matter. A benefit of working in peace and quiet is having the time and space to get to know what are the implications and possible consequences of an action and therefore what is the best way to proceed. There are no people able to think in pairs, are there? Of course, a discussion is one thing, but getting to know your own opinion on something is quite a different thing altogether.
A great example of a quiet, productive mindset are typical German offices - as mentioned in a BBC documentary Make me a German - chatting and taking care of private business while at work are not allowed - not just by the management - it's simply being frowned upon by other employees. They are also very strict about keeping all communication direct and to the point - no hour-long "our vision" statement as a preface to all meetings allowed.
In general, there is a lot to be learned from this, seeing as the Germans tend to work shorter hours, yet produce more.
Being quiet creates a more productive atmosphere and builds better morale for the team. Why not try it for one day? It doesn't take much, just shh...
How to Scale Kanban Well?21 Jul 2015
As Klaus Leopold mentioned on his website, scaling Kanban means no more than doing more of Kanban.
So really, it shouldn't be difficult, should it?
If you've done Kanban for some time, you're probably well aware of the fact that working along the Kanban
lines takes a tiny bit of a disciplined effort. This will not change when spreading it on an entire
The boards need updating and improving as the process changes, and general policies need regular monitoring. Ensure that the same rules apply to the bigger picture, and the first step is done.
It is important to organize the teams in a way that creates fairly small, ideally - cross-functional and, above all, autonomous groups. Their autonomy will drive motivation, add to their speed and promote self-responsibility.
Aside from the team's size, it's worth applying similar policies and objectives to different levels of work. For instance:
- team A will work on the general features list (implementation time-scale of 3 months),
- while team B works on an already planned feature (time-scale of 1 month),
- and team C works on the next planned release (time-scale of 5 days).
They do completely different things, but there is no real reason why they couldn't all follow the same process and similar culture.
Keep the original policies in place, but should the need arrive to alternate them - do so - moving forward is more
important than sticking to once set rules.
With the growth of your team, you should be able to keep the teams small in general, so the ability to maintain the policies will remain. It is the overall Kanban culture that you need to keep alive throughout all of the organization's levels.
After all, Kanban is not a recipe for success, it's just an approach to making improvements. So, it's the connection between different teams that needs attention.
In order for any policy or rule to prevail, there needs to be someone responsible for bringing it in and keeping it in place. This is what the ever-popular Kanban Coach, Agile Trainer or Scrum Master should do in an Agile company - keep the Kanban in place and look after it. It will never be self-maintaining without a leader.
Promoting ownership means getting the team members to participate in building their board, as their relation to it will be more involved and better motivated by this. If the Kanban board comes from them and not from the management, it makes more sense to want to follow and update it. This basically places the feeling of control and self-management to the workplace.
Scaling Kanban is not easy, but it is doable, as seen in many cases.
Please keep one thing in mind - the overall goal is for the processes to improve, not grow out of proportion.
Often times less complexity brings more clarity and efficiency, Kanban can facilitate this, when applied carefully and with thought.
Free Up More Time in Your Day15 Jul 2015
If your initial reaction to this is: "easier said than done", we're happy to offer some quick and useful tips on how to actually squeeze more out of your day.
A significant part of getting good at achieving more in less time is finding and keeping an appropriate state of mind. Agreeing with the general feeling, that there is just never enough time for doing all the things that need doing will guarantee low efficiency, won't it?
Therefore, once you accept that it is possible to change the way you work and get more done without running 11-hr workdays, here are some clues on how to get better at playing the time:
This is not just about the people chatting around you in the office (headphones recommended), it's also beneficial to mute the phone and log out from the inbox. Indeed, you can decide when to call people back and how many times a day it's necessary for you to check email.
Plan a time-frame and stick to it
If you know how long a task should take, you're giving yourself a better chance at getting it done in time.
Use keyboard short-cuts, email templates, reuse document content etc. If there is anything you've done before, chances are it wouldn't be so hard to do it much quicker next time round..
Do the hardest and most important thing first
This way you'll make sure you have the best of your energy for the things that matter the most. Also, having done the biggest task first thing in the day should create a better mind-frame for the rest of the day.
Delegate things whenever possible
This will not be possible for all of us, but - if you're lucky enough to have someone who can take something off your hands, use this to your advantage.
Eat and sleep right
May seem obvious, but stressed people tend to forget all about it, getting even more tired than necessary by not eating healthily and not sleeping enough.
Give your mind a break remembering things
Use an app for lists and to-dos, leaving your mind to do just the thinking. Whatever you want to think of yourself, the mind does have its limits.
Plan your time off
It's not meant to happen if and when you get a chance, time to relax needs to be a regular occurrence. The more busy you are, the more important to remember having to take a break.
Assuming you had the time to go through the points above, you should be able to give at least one of the tips a go and see for yourself whether things can get more efficient or not. Once you realize that they can, what you'll do with the extra time gained is completely up to you..
How to Run a Productive Meeting?09 Jul 2015
How come we hate meetings so much?
They take up too much time and leave little time for doing actual work? They have no purpose? We never get to change anything anyway? Because they turn into blame shifting exercises? Whatever your reason, there are easy solutions to keep in mind, when wanting to have a productive sit down with the team.
A sensible meeting should only include a few people, anything above "a few" will kill efficiency, by not allowing the attendees to contribute in any way, meaning it's a complete waste of their time. Not only that, but having a large number of people in a meeting promotes "social loafing", which means that people as part of a larger group tend to leave the burden of contributing (and working) to others, whereas individuals need to remain self-responsible.
Phones, iPads and laptops tempt the attendees to want to multi-task in the meeting, but this is simply not possible. The result will be both that the device user will not fully take part in the meet and they will also demotivate and distract other attendees.
Not surprisingly, for any Agile fan, it's been proven that holding stand-up meetings is more effective, by naturally shortening the time spent, but resulting with the same conclusion, that would have been reached when sat down.
..and observers. Some of us speak whenever we feel like it, while some have to be asked for their input. It is an effective way of getting everyone's take on a matter to simply ask their opinion. In other words, making sure that each person in the meeting gets a chance to speak. Also, it's a necessity for the meeting moderator to manage the people attending, on top of bringing everyone into the discussion, ensure their focus and sticking to the subject planned.
Meetings shouldn't be longer than 60 minutes. Keeping things short will ensure that people have the energy to remember what's been discussed and to go and work on it. Anything longer than an hour means people are leaving tired and worn out, with getting some peace as their priority.
A reasonable cause for holding a meeting is needing for a piece of information to bounce between a set of people - meaning - get their opinion, transfer to others and get their take on the new opinion. So, unless the meeting has a collaborative nature and is absolutely crucial, and isn't just an update, don't bother to set it up, just use email.
It's imperative for any meeting to have a set agenda and a plan. People do need to know what will be discussed, as otherwise they will not be able to contribute, will they? It's just as important to stick to the plan, not get sidetracked nor give up the agenda. Depending on the meeting size, it's often recommended to also sketch the outlines of what are the next steps to be taken, stemming from this meet.
Try all or some of these to rediscover why we used to rely on meetings as a way of actually getting somewhere ;) Best of luck!
Companies have policies and set ways of doing things, it's the natural order of the universe. In order for any new plan, strategy or even a technological approach to be brought into reality, companies need to create a process, that will make execution of the plan possible, easy and successful.
Why does an organization need this? Because people are naturally prone to resisting any changes and clinging to their comfort zones. The larger the organization, the more difficult it may be to make a big alteration. Thankfully, with a little work of a skilled and friendly change manager, it can be done and done well.
There are three distinct aspects of change management, as it can be split into three phases:
Adapting to change: identifying change requirements, preparing a strategy and possibly thinking of a sponsorship model. A change sponsor would be the person responsible for bringing in the changes, by setting up change events, activities and a roadmap.
Managing / controlling the change - once the detailed plans of implementing the change are in place, the obvious task is to take action and turn the plans to reality with appropriate control of the outcome.
Once the changes are in, what remains to be done is reinforcing them by collecting and analysing the feedback data, recognizing any gaps and taking care of any resistance and implementing corrective procedures. It's also worth to celebrate success ;)
Some of the most important points of making changes happen and of ensuring a lasting commitment to them include:
Putting an emphasis on the people involved, considering their individual situation and making a point of keeping the morale intact. This is best achieved by sustaining an effective, clear and honest communication at all stages of making the change happen.
There is no need for the change sponsor to be going this alone. A crucial part of change management lies in appointing leaders and owners on all organizational levels, to facilitate the desired steps. Giving project ownership to people provides a much needed sense of responsibility and motivates the key players to realize their assigned goals.
Once the sponsors and owners are set, it's worth remembering, that there is already some kind of corporate culture in place within the organization. It should be respected, as going over and beyond this will create an unnecessary havoc.
As with most serious actions, it's advised for the change managers to be prepared for the unexpected. Foreseeing any issues can ensure a more effective change implementation and reduce the risks.
It would be necessary for the implemented change to be fully supported and backed by senior management. Since the team, possibly distressed by the change will turn to them exactly, it is a given that the management has got to be in agreement with the coming change for as long as it's being introduced.
All in all, for as long as the change managers keep the team happy and save them as much stress as they can, any amount of change can be implemented with success. Just keep the people happy, after all it is them who make up the entire company.
Basic Examples of a Kanban System 24 Jun 2015
A Kanban system is one that implements a project management method with respect for at least 2 simple rules: a visualization of the work process and a limitation on the amount of work being progressed at any given time.
The outcome of following these rules is a visible productivity increase, simplification of the communication processes resulting in time savings, increased focus and job satisfaction among the team, waste reduction and many more positives that make the system too good to ignore.
The base for any Kanban system is a workflow division into 3 categories: a backlog of work - things needed to be done in the future, a work in progress column, containing only the things that are being worked on at the moment - with a limit applied and a section for items that have been completed.
Starting from a basic board, you can learn Kanban and get to perfect your process as you go. The board set up in an online Kanban tool can be altered at any given moment, without causing damage to the ongoing workflow.
For this reason holding the board online is beneficial over a physical Kanban board. You can create a board applicable to a time-driven process:
If the way your business is organized depends on certain events taking place in a designed sequence - you will benefit most from a board like this one:
When your area of work is sales and you need to follow potential customers' progress along the sales pipeline, it will be vital that you do not miss any opportunity of contact. A great Kanban board for sales pipeline would look like this:
There can be as many Kanban systems as many different workflows and business types there are. It's great to have somewhere to start (Kanban Tool offers 7 most often used Kanban templates for you to start with), but the cherry on top is the ability to tailor the board to suit your needs at any moment, without any negative consequences to the current work flow.
Interesting takes on s Kanban system are presented as a Kanban Multiverse and a Networked Kanban. These only go to show how flexible and customizable the method really is.
The great productivity aids of a Kanban system are:
- Better focus among the team members: limited amount of items that they are allowed to work on at any given time
- Reduced waste: it easy to prevent the team from doing work that is not needed, doubling up done tasks or focusing on the things that are not the most important
- Ongoing items completion: because the number of tasks is limited, they are bound o get finished before new ones are started
- Process flexibility: no restraints on how things get done - there is always room for improvement.
Take advantage of a Kanban system that matches your specific needs to see just how much more productive your work can become.
In all resource materials associated with Agile, the approach is often related to as utilizing a pull method. What does this mean and why is it important?
Grab tasks when you're ready
Kanban works on an idea of establishing a workflow, a system in which the process stages are represented by different columns of tasks, through which the tasks get moved as the work progresses in the workflow. One of the fundamental ideas behind Kanban is allowing for the items / tasks to be grabbed by the team members as they become available after completing previous tasks, hence a pull method.
So, the difference between using a pull and a push system of work assignment is in the optimization of the way items are distributed among the team. In a traditional push system, the work items, as assigned to different people, create separate queues of tasks. Meanwhile having work unassigned and available for pull equals easier prioritization of items. A team is able to target the priority items in pull model implementations, because the people work together on the high priority issues, therefore it gets easier to keep the end product in focus, rather than the personal work item preferences.
The push model risks
A risk in having items assigned to specific people lies in loosing grip on where specific tasks have landed and in having them stuck in queues while people take leave or get overwhelmed with work. Meanwhile, if the tasks are queued in a common backlog, chances are that if an item is of a high priority, someone will pull it quicker than it would have happened while it was assigned to someone. The more people draw items from one backlog, the better a potential priority-check rate, than if specific people pulled work from assigned backlogs.
The pull method approach also promotes collaboration and therefore helps in achieving better results, since in situations when tasks are assigned individually, the team is not likely to opt for cooperation - which may often be the best way forward. That's because individually assigned work calls for the team to stick to assignments in order to retain their task accountability. It's been often noted that accountability is better perceived as regarding a complete working item, rather than a perfectly done set of not necessarily associated tasks, all the more reason to go with pull method.
An invaluable aspect of applying the pull method is staying able to adapt to change quickly and efficiently. An alteration in the priorities, a small or large focus shift will not produce an upheaval within the team, as their plans can be modified easier with no personal backlogs. Also, because of the same reasons, any necessary changes in the team size for specific projects can be done quicker, since team members have no long item backlogs to fulfil. Teams are more scalable this way.
It could then be said, that sticking to the pull method benefits the team in more than one way. It's also not just a question of following Kanban as it's meant to be, but of optimizing the work of the team to the maximum level, for best possible results.
Five Principles of Kanban Boards12 Jun 2015
Did you find yourself wondering why should you introduce new approaches for managing your work load? Let's start with the basic concept of visual management which is simply a visual representation of your work flow and business processes. The practice of visual management allows for managing work, understanding system and following set directions.
It sounds really promising, but why would I use visual cues? Visual management is a clear and simple way to organize and present information. The visual signals allow for transparency over your processes, easy access to your work items and quick overview of the processes.
Kanban board is nothing else, but a visual management environment for your work flow. The visual cues are presented in form of Kanban cards that are easily readable and contain more detailed information upon opening. These can be easily followed on your Kanban board which structure reflects the stages each work item goes through.
The big five
- Simple – It can't get more intuitive than Kanban board, work items are organized in structured manner and allow for smooth navigation.
- Accessible – Whether you are using a whiteboard or digital Kanban everyone will have access to information at a glance.
- Visible – Nothing speaks more than visual cues. Easily identify items and see how the work progresses.
- Current – Tasks and projects broken down into visual items will let you see how the work progresses daily.
- Standardized – Everyone follows the same efficient work flow.
If you are ready for a drastic change with lots of benefits you should try Kanban boards yourself. Introduce visual management to your team and allow for collaboration on your new platform. Once you experience the possibilities and see the benefits you will need no further convincing.
Problems with Kanban?09 Jun 2015
Having observed Kanban implementations over the last decade, there rises a question of why do so many of us fail at making it work? We've tried to find the most common reasons for Kanban failure. Take a look and see what you think?
"It's only for linear processes"
A belief, that because Kanban was originally used to manage one-line processes, this is how it is meant to stay, whereas you can and should foresee and inject any additional steps into the process and really visualize it, to truly benefit from seeing where it is that the project gets stuck the most and what can be done to improve it. People still associate Kanban with car making, which indeed follows a one direction process, but the fact that this is the way it's always being depicted does not actually set that take on Kanban in stone. Kanban - as a change management method, which it is - is meant to be used as a way of looking at the process, not taken as
a prescribed, strict method.
"Kanban is a ready-made way to work"
Constantly comparing Kanban to Scrum, XP, Waterfall and other management methods - again, coming from a perspective, that Kanban is a way of bringing in change, these comparisons are pointless. There's no real goal, nor value in bringing together an evolutionary change management method and a task management process to try to weigh in which is more valuable. Kanban on its own, without any customization and thorough process analysis, for complex projects - like software development - is likely to not be quite enough, as it brings no strict rules nor practices to the table.
It's a tool for managing a change, demanding that you find the right way to do things yourself, it's not a ready to use system, it requires building on it by the team in question. Whether it'll be another system within the Kanban, or just a set of good practices for the team to follow, you need to get involved a little more. The point is constant improvement and evolvement.
"My team cannot do Kanban"
An often observed problem with Kanban implementation are issues caused by the people. But hang on, this can be applied to absolutely everything that involves people. People doing Scrum, not doing anything, selling bread - these are all situations, in which the people involved will cause and experience problems. Is this is really a Kanban issue then? No.
However, there are some great tips for the people doing Kanban, which can decrease the probability of creating difficulties associated with the board. They are:
- Keeping the board up to date - if the team is doing one thing and the board is showing something completely different, you know that things will go wrong. Make sure that the board reflects the work
- Making the board represent the real process that is being followed, not one that the team aspire to have
- Sticking to the set WIP limits - there will be times, when breaking them may be allowed and possibly beneficial, but making this a common practice equals giving up on Kanban altogether. They're there to improve the flow, not to be fought.
If there's one thing that could be taken from this, it's not to treat Kanban as a self-implementing magical tool. It will work fine, provided that you take it seriously and spend time on making it as closely follow what you really are doing (including all the waiting, recycling and rethinking type columns) and keep coming back to it to see which steps aren't needed, what should be added and what overall improvements need to happen to make the process better.
8 Best Tricks to Keep Yourself Motivated02 Jun 2015
A popular approach to staying motivated comes down to following few simple rules.
These are the common, fail-safe rules. But if you're not feeling motivated enough to read through the entire list, keep this in mind: there is a difference between what motivates us in long term and how we perform on a daily basis.
Basing on what you're aiming to achieve, you can either set performance goals (reply to 35 emails in 60 minutes), or mastery goals (learn to write better code, register for people skills course, get more fit etc). Knowing the difference will help you save time and effort (don't go for a 2-week seminar on people skills, if the reason for going is hoping that this will get you a raise).
Now for the tips that always work – whether for operational or personal development motivation:
Setting simple and achievable goals
The less general and vague, the better. Get them down in detail, and make them action-oriented. For instance “improve the look of the sitting room” is not specific enough at all, but “get new curtains and pillows” is.
Getting started right away
There's hardly ever a real need to put something off for tomorrow. Face it.
Paying rewards to yourself
A small treat for each achieved milestone and a reward for a completed work. This is bound to work, when done with honesty.
Getting a good discipline in
It's too often that it is not the lack of motivation that stops you from achieving a goal, but the lack of discipline to do the actual work, step by step.
Setting up a routine
An extension of discipline, really - getting used to the order of things for the day, which - of course – includes working on the things you need to be motivated for.
Setting realistic goals
That's a big part of being able to stay motivated. It's never a surprise that someone has given up working toward a specific goal, simply because there was no way on Earth they'd ever be able to achieve even a small part of it. Stay real.
Keeping yourself inspired
Even the nicest of jobs or activities can become tiring at some point. Rather than give up, try making yourself focused on the aspects of it that drew you to it in the first place. Yes, this does sound like a relationship advice, doesn't it? That's the point, inspiration is the one thing, that through allowing you to step back and take a look at what you have or what you're doing, helps to realize what keeps you in it and why you do like it really, you just need to be reminded.
There is a reason why this comes up as last. Maintaining a discipline, getting the right amount of focus and inspiration, as well as having the energy and mindset of a motivated person, all become easier to achieve and stick to, when you're physically well. Therefore, sleeping and eating well, exercising and taking appropriate time off will truly help in becoming and staying motivated.
Kanban for Game Development20 May 2015
All of our team had been waiting impatiently for "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt" game from CD Project Red. As fans of both the game and Kanban, we were also delighted that Kanban Tool had its part in the game's production process. Over the last decade, Kanban has proven a great way to develop games, but what are the actual reasons for applying Lean practices to game development?
The job of developing games
Building games costs more with each year, as a result of commonly used hardware development and its increased capabilities, naturally demanding and allowing better, more complex and detailed games. Because of the need for higher quality graphics, better sound, more in-game space and more game-play time, the costs of game producing grows rapidly. In order for a game development company to be successful, each of their products needs to be a hit, whereas some time ago it was ok to have some unsuccessful products, which costs would have been covered by the sales of the single hit every few years. This is why the need to reduce costs has become so vital for the industry.
How game development adapts to Agile?
Lean practices promote equal amounts of work for each stage of the process within a given time - so - keeping a steady proportion between research, design, coding, testing and debugging. This doesn't necessarily need to work for game development, which would be easier dividable into two main phases: pre-production and production. It may well be, that each of the two requires a different approach.
The stages and the methods
In the pre-production phase, the team is meant to do research, find ideas, concepts and think of the game plan for a product. This may be a good stage to work a Scrum based methodology, because of the iterative nature of a "probing" environment. New ideas, new research topics every couple of days will be suitable for Scrum.
Once this has been done and the actual production stage begins with designing, modelling, coding, testing, quality assurance etc. At this point, since it's already known what it is that you want to make, there is very little room for iterations and frequent changes.
This is when applying Kanban makes a lot more sense, as it requires no iterations, and focuses on developing one item after another. It could be said then, that the less you know about what you're going to build, the more appropriate an iteration-based method like Scrum will be. And as soon as you're invested in an idea and are working towards its production, the less you require iterations and can look towards Kanban for task processing.
Scrum is not the way for the production stage
Simply because the stages of work need to be done sequentially (as one needs the other to be done before work can go on, as with game level design - coding - graphics - audio), and any work will delay or be compromised when one of the stages fails to deliver, it is not possible to implement Scrum to the production phase.
Why does Kanban work, then?
What is needed to make the work go ahead is a healthy predictability of the workflow, minimized interruptions and an eliminated waiting time - so, a system, which encompasses rough time boxing and visualizes the entire workflow in a way that is accessible to all on the team - i.e. a Kanban board.
In the production stage of game development, when the goal and idea for the game is set, the priority becomes achieving the planned result at a lowest cost possible, but with as many helpful improvements along the way, as can be squeezed in.
Applying Kanban facilitates this through:
- Levelling the flow throughout the system, thereby shortening the time from start to finish
- Running a flexible workflow, allowing for making changes and improvements quickly and visually, hence decreasing the communication time in a large team (and at this stage in game development, the teams are large) and disallowing premature work and any over-production
- Identifying and eliminating waste.
Thanks to applying Kanban method to game development many a team are able to produce games more quickly and efficiently, thus more cheaply too. With the competitiveness of the market, achieving a great result at a low cost is by far an imperative.
Kanban boards for game development allow to achieve workflow predictability (thereby utilize the resources more efficiently), and gain process transparency - hence shortening communication tracks and enabling better work distribution and process perfection, in other words optimizing the flow altogether.
Running a business along with an Agile methodology may be seen as a thing of fashion, correct. But there is also real value behind it – with smoother organization, and better distribution of tasks, achieved by running the show by self-organizing, cross-functional teams – goals tend to be achieved quicker, the process is constantly being improved upon and, thanks to the clarity of the process stages, all of the team are more aware of the big picture, hence able to make their bit of work better suited to the demand.
Agile methodology is most commonly associated with Scrum and Kanban methods of managing projects. Although different in their specific approaches, they are both based on the idea of visualizing the workflow and dividing it into distinct process stages, by that facilitating better progress monitoring and tasks distribution. There is more to these two methods than this, but the element of visualization is key to the success of the approach.
All business rests on people's ability to communicate. And with the necessity to communicate comes the communicator's responsibility to make information understandable and clear to the receiver. Very often, without delivering a clear message or by over-talking an idea – the idea will not be understood. This, in turn can very well result with lack of new business, misunderstandings and failure to develop new ideas and projects.
We're all familiar with the “a picture is worth a thousand words” saying, and it is the gist of what visualization in Agile helps to achieve.
By making your plans and actions visual on a board, you're getting at least 3 things done:
- gripping the ideas of team members and clients
- transforming client's orders into measurable and understandable work items
- facilitating an easy team collaboration and making easier the job of task sharing
What benefits does it bring?
By use of the Agile approach in your organization you're placing yourself on the road to process improvement, more effective teamwork and a quicker arrival at the desired results. Along with that you're making the process easier to understand by team members and promoting responsibility for the work they do (assignments are known to all on the team and so is the progress on the work). On top of this, you're helping the team members cooperate better and learn from each other more, since people can observe who excels in what and ask for advise.
And most importantly – since in most Agile organizations the Agile boards are also visible to the stakeholders, they too get a clearer view of the process, of what you're working on and how it is coming along. So, it's not only a tool helpful in getting the client, but just as useful in keeping him informed.
How to get there?
To utilize an Agile, visual approach right now, all you need is a whiteboard and a pen. Simply divide what you're doing into stages (the minimum is “to do” - “doing” - “done”), place work items in the columns and get to work. By representation of the work on a board, you're enabling yourself to focus on the task that you're currently working on and stay calm about the work that awaits its turn. It is actually a great property of Kanban, aimed at making sure, that the focus is on one job only – it's called WIP (work in progress) limits.
Try an Agile visualization for yourself and see what it can do for your process, however big or small.
How to Be an Effective Employee?05 May 2015
Different jobs require different skills and approaches. One thing, which stays the same for any kind of work you do, and which will add to your success, is keeping the right attitude. Whether you consider a boss – employee relation or an ability to make teamwork successful, going in with a specific and right mindset is key.
Set and maintain high standards
This will be appreciated, and not only by your boss. The person assigning you the work will be pleased to see that you've met the demand, and the customers, who receive the work item shall both appreciate the standard and get business assurance from the quality of work done. So, high quality work all round shall result with praise and the returning of business.
Along with this goes the logical rule of not beginning to work on something, that you are not sure you understand. The danger here is time wasted on unneeded work. Better to make sure you get the idea before you proceed. Also, once you do have a grasp of the instructions, stick to them, at least with new tasks, it's only after a few repeats that you'll be safe to follow your own way.
Being precise and dedicated always goes a long way. So, high quality again. And once you're done with a task, go right to another, without having to be told. This proves initiative and responsibility, both highly valued by your boss.
Use good ways to communicate
The percentage of people who react better to strict demands and harshly put commands, than to pleasant communication and civil conversation is very small. It makes sense that when you use friendly language and stay nice towards co-workers, bosses, employees – they listen. Treating people in a way, in which you'd like to be treated yourself is always a good idea. Letting others talk instead of interrupting is a part of this too.
Another side of this issue is applying a strict policy on not criticizing others publicly. However true the remarks, this behaviour creates an atmosphere of control and distrust. Better to not go there at all. Similarly, if you'd rather for the entire office not to know your secrets, don't confide them to any of the people – simple.
Last, but not least, make visible contributions to the teamwork. Staying known among the colleagues as easy to work with and happy to help will power up a good opinion to follow you. At the same time, don't make the need to ask for help a problem. As long as you've had a go at cracking it yourself first, people will usually not mind helping you out.
A touch of common sense and decency
Prioritize your work and commit to doing it – for that's the point, after all. This also means leaving private stuff and calls for after work, not stretching 10-minute breaks to an hour long ones and staying as productive as possible (including being on time and focused).
Another part of doing professional work lies in making a professional impression, simply by dressing appropriately, using correct language, speaking clearly, calmly and loud enough for others to hear you. It's also always a good idea to act confidently, even (or particularly) in situations when you aren't. After all, the way in which you present and react to a problem is often a large portion of the way that others will perceive it and go about fixing it. So, stay calm and confident, also in situations of high stress level and great urgency.
Using some or all of the instructions above may not guarantee a raise, a promotion nor other forms of gratification. It will, however, make your work much more satisfying and improve the workplace ethics, morale, atmosphere and productivity. Now, these may indeed result in financial rewards further down the line. But the idea is to improve the everyday experience, relationships with co-workers, the boss and getting better job satisfaction. Good luck!
Learn to Finish What You've Started22 Apr 2015
Do you think that you need to be particularly gifted to be able to finish what you once started? Or perhaps you've always assumed that this is an inherit part of one's character – either you're a dedicated finisher or you tend to lose interest in anything you do after a while, therefore not completing many of the projects you begin? Either of these may be true, but we're here to show that with a little effort, you can find a way to complete what you've embarked upon.
Judge the quality of the started project
Let's take a little step back to decide on the general idea behind the need to finish absolutely everything that you begin. Assuming you're a human as flawed as they get, some of the things you undertake are simply mistakes. Coming from this perspective, finishing everything you start is a recipe for becoming an automated, stubborn being. If this is your goal, go for it. The point here is underlying the need to judge which of the many projects that you've begun is the 10% that are actually worth giving up on. All in all, a time and effort saving judgement call.
Label the project you begin appropriately
Following the step above, it may seem that it will be very easy to throw each of the things you've just lost motivation to finish into the 10% category. To avoid this, you may want to label all of the projects you undertake as either experimental (which you can quit upon as soon as you decide that they're worthless for you) or new activities (towards which you have made a commitment and from which there is meant to be no backing out).
By applying these labels at the onset of a project, you will be able to both decide when (if) you're ready to give up, as well as stay internally motivated towards completing those that you're serious about. It's a form of self-policing, for sure, but we are talking about self discipline after all.
Also, making a distinction between new activities and experiments forces you to really think through any new commitments – since you know from the beginning, that you will be taking it seriously. As a result, you end up getting better prepared for what's to be achieved by the project, and you make a greater success of taking part.
Set a due date for the end of your projects
By appreciating the impending finish time, you should get motivated to get to work. If you make a firm decision on by when each of the things you get involved with is meant to be finished, your chances of succeeding are a lot higher. Once the due date is decided, you can work on a project on and off and enjoy the little steps adding up to the finished goal.
Track and monitor your progress
Especially with large and difficult projects, simply working on them may be daunting. Help yourself by tracking down the work you've done so to date, this way you'd get a chance to see the light at the end of the tunnel. By viewing how much had already been done, you will get a better motivation to carry on right up to the finish line.
When stuck – ask for help instead of giving up
It may well be, that while undertaking a new activity, that you may not have any experience with, you will come to a point when your ideas and answers will end. Whether this is due to lack of experience in the field, or to having encountered an obstacle, quite often simply asking for someone's advice or help is the easiest way out. Thanks to getting a little help, you won't feel demotivated and as you've failed yourself, and the final goal will get much closer to you. Don't be shy to ask a little help.
Get the most out of the work you do
Now that you've already made the commitment and are working towards a goal, a nice trick to stay on top of the work is making the way you work as enjoyable as you can, either by using methods of work that are fun, or by incorporating fun activities into work on a particular project (as in: only play your favourite music while working on this thing or always get a nice cup of coffee [or else] while getting to work).
Don't make an imperative of being a perfectionist
Completing something you've committed to does not need to mean completing it to the highest standard possible, with flying colours and trumpets playing. Obviously, the merit needs to be there, but there will be no brownie points for the sparkling finish you provide.. point being, get the job done, don't stay up all night adding bonus features and extra flare to the necessary content.
Don't get stuck looking at the bigger picture
A job is a job, just get it done one step after another, without constant effort to embrace the whole picture. Yes, it's important to see the entire bigger idea, to know what you're working towards, but there is no need to be looking at it and thinking of it every little step of the way. Sometimes you need to only see the few steps ahead of you to be able to move along.
So, have you reached the finishing line of this article? If so, you're on the right path to be able to start learning to finish the projects that you've begun! Just put your mind to it.
If taking an active approach to making an improvement of your productivity has failed you, as it has failed many of us, there is the passive way to go about it. Instead of taking an effort to apply new practices, see what you can stop doing to achieve an efficiency boosting result.
Say no to overtime
Working more has nothing to do with being more effective. Being more tired and feeling that you've done loads
– yes, but with actually increasing productivity – not at all. Henry Ford was one of the first whom we remember as concerned with this aspect of people's productivity. He measured, that when his workers had stopped working 10 hour workdays and switched to 8, their efficiency increased. This is why we now have 8-hour workdays, by the way. But this still doesn't mean that 8 is the only way to go. Point here being, the less time you have for doing the work, the better you're concentrating on doing it, not to mention decreased levels of fatigue and better job satisfaction related to your productivity increase.
You don't need to be a Kanban addict to know that the more you try to do at once, the less you will get done as a result. Not to mention the dubious quality of the work you do while managing an x number of other tasks at the same time. Multitasking results in lack of focus, no attention to the details nor grasping of the bigger picture, all impacting the quality of what you do. There is also the wasteful aspect of context switching – whenever you're changing the task you're doing, there is an adaptation time, necessary to remember the essence of the job and getting
a needed mind set.
Don't go to business meetings that have no set goal
If you don't know what you're meeting someone about, chances are you're not going to get much out of this meeting. You do need an agenda, talking points, clear goals to discuss and make decisions on.
Don't neglect your health
Not getting enough sleep, not enough (or not very nutritious food), not taking the time to relax and sitting down for too long all have a major influence on how you work, how clear your head is and how efficiently can you operate throughout the day.
Give up excessive control
Sorry to say this, but no-one is irreplaceable. There is therefore no need for you to control every aspect of the company going-ons yourself. There is a reason why organizations hire more than one man, delegate your work and let go of the omnipotent control desire. If it's not crucial that you oversee something personally – don't.
Put a stop to reading an email more than once
To save time and work more effectively, once you get to the inbox and start opening emails, it's a great rule to only take one go at each of them. So, as you're reading one – decide right away whether it can be discarded as irrelevant, dealt with immediately (and if so – just do it) or whether it needs extra work before it can be handled. What you don't want to do is go over any of them more than once, as this is pure waste of your time. Clear as you go!
Stop doing repeatable work and doubling up work mistakes
All kinds of jobs have a part to them, that is built of periodically repeatable tasks. A fantastic use of your time would be to make them as automated as they can get, whether it's with the use of software or other people – most repeatable tasks can be streamlined and sometimes “robotized”. The other part of this is not learning your lessons from the mistakes you've made previously regarding the same kind of work – only by using the knowledge gained while doing something wrong can you utilize the mistake for
a good purpose and let yourself and your methods grow.
Kill your perfectionism
This may hurt, I know, but keeping things absolutely perfect hardly ever pays off. More often than not, you end up getting bogged down in meaningless details, instead of looking at the big picture. What matters is whether the essence of what you're doing is correct, on track and on demand, perfected details can make a difference, but will not save a project that has no real merit. Don't waste your time then.
Good luck to all trying not to do any of these!
10 Things that Really Motivate You to Work08 Apr 2015
From among tons of factors that serve as motivation to people, some may seem more obvious than others. Of course, motivation will differ depending on people's age, gender, industry and – most of all – character. There's no real need here to mention money as one of them, as it may be argued that this is the basic motivation to do any work in general.
Having a goal to aim for and being aware of the fact that what you're working towards adds up with work of others and advances a bigger cause motivates quite a few. Good leadership, as a mean of supporting this and providing some guidance can also facilitate the way we feel about what we've achieved and about our future goals.
Utilizing the skills you have and excelling at the tasks assigned is a good proof of being a valuable team member and commonly acts as motivation, as well as a career advancement motor.
This can be easily paired with the desire of making a contribution to the team effort, often stated by people as motivating.
Being relevant, noticed and appreciated is a major component in employee motivation. This normally leads to people searching for new ways of making themselves more valuable, learning new skills and becoming more and more specialized. This goes along with reaching a specific status within the organization and taking efforts to maintain it. Together with that we observe a deserved recognition and motivation that it provides.
There are some among us, who will get motivated by pure curiosity - an eagerness to learn new things and gain new abilities. Once an employee like this is recognized, it's worth making sure that they do have the opportunity to develop and learn.
From here we only need to take one step further to establish that it is very often power, that motivates us to do what we do. Being influential in an organization, holding an executive position, making crucial decisions on your own or managing a group of people can all provide a feeling of empowerment and generate respect from colleagues, co-workers or clients. Also, simply knowing that your opinion will matter and influence how the company works, empowers and motivates many of us.
Whether you're an employee or an employer, knowing what motivates people – and especially the people you work with – is a big advantage. It's only when you realize this, that you'd be able to focus on achieving better results. Good luck!
Have you ever wondered how come some people have no difficulty grasping complex ideas in an instant, while others need a lot of explaining and navigating through other associated concepts before they know what is being talked about? One might say this is simply a matter of IQ – and perhaps it is.
But there are ways of tricking the way you think and think about thinking (!), resulting in broadening your understanding abilities and therefore allowing you to take more in and – in turn – give more back. Knowing more and learning fast is a simple way to being more productive and valued at work, at school and in life. So – what can you do to think better?
Practice retaining information
With the way the schooling and higher education systems work, it's common for us to learn something very difficult very well and have no recollection of it after a little while. It's unfortunate, but we're happy to let go when it comes to things we know we'll never really need in the future. It's worse however, when the same happens for useful skills and valuable knowledge, that gets lost with time. If you really care about remembering and utilizing something you've just learned – put an effort into making it stick. Repeat it. Write it down. Draw it. Make a mental map of it. Talk about it with friends. Perhaps (claimed to be the most effective one) try teaching it. Keep coming back to it. These are some of the ways of making a conscious effort of retaining good information.
Try to think ahead
This inevitably goes with broader thinking, doesn't it? If you see an idea or issue as a whole, you're able to foresee possible trouble ahead and get prepared for it. Doing that teaches applying a wide perspective and taking responsibility. A good way of learning this is by playing chess.
Practice creative & lateral thinking
These are the quickest working tricks to broaden your perspective. By leaving no restrains on how you think, you're opening to creativity. Thinking laterally means using non-standard solutions to standard problems, trying opposite of the expected and not always going for the logical solution. To think creatively try absurd solutions, look at problems the other way round, de-construct ideas and put them together your own way, joke about things and accept no failure – all solutions teach you something.
Those that require thinking, of course. As with any ability – practice makes perfect. By training your brain to solve problems and search for solutions in a maths, words, geometry or logical puzzle, you're getting closer to the ability to solve real-life problems quicker too. Just try.
Read & increase your vocabulary
New words need pondering on. By learning them you're automatically widening the spectrum of your understanding. Also, the more words you know, the less time it takes for you to present an idea to others. The easiest way to learn new words is in a context (not by reading the dictionary). So, take up reading books or magazines (those with fewer pictures than text ;) to make getting to know new words easy for yourself.
Staying healthy and in good shape facilitates clear thinking. By reducing stress levels (always done through sport) you're allowing your mind to relax and focus better on what you're trying to solve / understand. This one no-one can argue with!
Question what you know & experiment with it
It's not difficult to fall into the trap of deciding that you now know it all and can stop learning. A safe bet on avoiding this is always questioning what you know, getting second (and third) opinion, mulling over ideas and experimenting with new concepts. If you want to test your fresh knowledge, immerse in experimenting with it. By doing we are learning and growing the most.
Study great thinkers
No-one is expecting you to reinvent the one good road to effective thinking. Get inspired by those that came before you. By reading great authors in the fields most interesting to you, you get a chance to discover what drove them, how they came to the conclusions that they did, what were their goals and their issues. There is no need to go it alone – get help of the ones who've already made it.
Spend time with people who show the characteristics that you want to get
It's no secret that we adopt some of the behaviour, some qualities and quite often a lot of the opinions of the people we spend a lot of time with. Try using this to your advantage – stick with people that have the qualities you desire and it's quite likely that they'll be passed onto you. Clever!
Take all opportunities to increase your experience
Whether you've been raised in a tiny village or a highly populated city, what you've experienced so far determines the way you perceive new ideas and any problems you come across. Getting around, doing new things, meeting people from different backgrounds – all this increases how you think and how much you can grasp. So do take any opportunity to do new activities, meet new people and cross your own limits – in order to change your thinking perspective and be able to understand more.
Why not make a little effort, and try some of these ideas to see if the way you think and act changes at all? There is nothing to lose, and quite a lot to gain. The broader your thinking ability and perspective, the more valuable you are for a potential employer and to your friends, but most of all – the better your own life experience. It's worth trying.
Successful People Work Smart, not just Hard24 Mar 2015
When thinking about how you work, you really should take into consideration the fact that it's not just how hard you work, but how optimal your working practices are, that matters.
This seemingly obvious tip is probably the key skill to have if you want to learn to work smart. As far as time waste and time savings go, this is the area of activity where improvements are made.
Minimize the amount of context switching
This produces waste and waste alone. Whenever you need to switch from task A to B and back again, this creates a waste of the mind-set that you have created in order to do the job. Having to switch back and forth (multi-task) generates heaps of this sort of waste.
Research a lot more deep than it's really required
Thanks to taking this approach you'll get a much better understanding of all problems and probably will grab some additional knowledge, which will prove useful in the future.
By good planning and following the calendar you'll most likely manage to avoid any traps of an unexpected urgent work, ruining your entire schedule. You'd think it's common sense, but surprisingly even those of us who do place events in the calendar, often don't remember to check or adhere to them.
Get as much information from other people as you can
This goes for asking questions, inquiring, looking into other solutions etc. It's usually more than likely that someone around you already knows what you're looking for.
Realize that the act of doing something is not equivalent to being productive
Simply following the standard steps and telling yourself that this is going somewhere doesn't yet mean getting something done, does it? It's very much like doing work for the sake of working – rarely being related to adding value to the product or to moving a project along.
Draw big pictures and discuss what you do with others
To visualize / realize what it is that you're doing and how it's meant to be done. Seeing things and talking them over with people facilitates better understanding, remembering and perfecting of the action. Also, please remember, that knowing why you're doing something is much powerful than just knowing
how to do it.
Ensure that you know the environment that you're in
Not knowing how to use the office hardware or how to find important documents in the office can effectively put a stop to your productivity. It's better to spend a little time learning the surroundings than to have to ask for help whenever you come across a problem.
Set a limit to how many times one thing can annoy you
There is a very cool rule of 3 annoyances – when a small problem comes your way for the third time in a row, rather than trying to work around it, just solve it. Say it's the third time this week you're approaching the photocopying machine and it's broken – rather than going to the other floor to make your copies, just call the service and get it fixed. You'll gain time and save yourself further annoyance.
Relax and take breaks
Whatever it is that you're doing, doing it when relaxed brings much better results than doing this when you're tense. Relaxation and keeping a good distance from the work is always a good investment. Holding regular breaks allows you to keep the focus sharp and to stay well motivated throughout the day.
Manage similar tasks in batches
It's a great time saving and a cut-down of distraction and avoidance of context switching to work items in bulk. Tasks such as answering email, calling people back, preparing documentation etc. are done much more effectively when worked in sets. For instance check the inbox once an hour rather than keep it open all the time, as it's creating a distraction. You are also more effective when you're answering in bulk, than when having to get into the communicative mind-set for each and every one email.
There is a lot more that can be done to work smarter. The key is to think about what and how you do things, look back at how you've been getting on, so that any improvements are actually possible. When properly organized, it's most likely that any job can be made easier and more pleasant to do.
Want to take effective breaks at work? Find out some of the best practices for keeping the productivity going and staying focused but not stressed throughout the day. Taking regular breaks also prevents you from getting bored too quickly, therefore more happy about your job and yourself.
Choose an activity that will not demand your full attention and focus
For instance, taking a walk through the city demands that you remain fully aware of what's going on around you, whereas strolling through a park allows you to wonder about and pay little attention to what's around. This would be a much better way to recharge your batteries and refresh the mind.
Find a distraction
If your idea of a break is stepping out into the next room or outside, this may be only a change of scenery, while your mind may very well remain focused on work. Seems like a great idea to get something mindless to do, an activity which will allow your mind to wonder into whichever direction in chooses (juggling, video games, doodling, listening to music, etc.).
Plan for breaks
You (and your mind) need to know that and when a break will occur, to sustain good energy and concentration levels. You may even schedule the breaks, use Pomodoro (work for 30 min and break for 5), or any other approach (60 min work / 10 min break, 52/17, 90/15 etc.). Such an approach of knowing what's around the corner amounts to much higher focus.
Go away when you're taking a break
As mentioned before – staying 10 feet away from your desk is hardly a break. Go out, walk about, get a coffee, see the world, preferably on the natural side (a park, meadow or even just a tree?).
See what exercise can do for productivity in 15 minutes
This gives an opportunity to both reinvigorate the mind and pick up some exercise, for which you may not normally have the time. Of course, you wouldn't go to the gym, but a run up and down some steps will certainly get the circulation going, clear the mind and make room for brand new focusing ability.
Arrange a motivational break 2/3 through the day
Whether you're a coffee, smoothies or cake fan – how about making a motivational trip to the coffee shop 2/3 down the workday, to reward the hard work you've already done and get a boost for the last part of the day? Works for quite a few ;)
Define clear and precise expectations
It may seem obvious, but surprisingly, what is expected is very often left unsaid, therefore the employee may have no idea of whether what they deliver does or doesn't meet the manager's expectations. Defining expectations should be coupled with stating the consequences of not meeting the expected results.
Set solid deadlines
- for completion of the precisely presented expectations, as described above.
Try to get to the root cause of the under-performance
Sometimes it's simply that a job is not doable, no matter who you'll put onto it, other times the reason for under-performing may be a deep issue in the employee's private life, which will later pass and the quality of their work will return to the normal height.
Even the most dedicated employees need to see what will be the direct benefit of their hard work and ot have a personal goal to achieve within the company.
Be prepared to dismiss some people
No matter how many different factors you'll take into account, and how well will you motivate your team, some people will just not improve. Shame they got through the recruitment process in the first place, but now that you know their value, just let go and save your company the time.
Unless people are aware of the quality of their work, they will not be able to make a change. So, if they're doing poorly – do let them know, and if they're doing great – they need to know just the same.
Act as soon as you notice the lower quality of performance
The longer you leave it, the less likely it will be resolved.
Investigate early on
To find whether it's the lack of motivation or lack of ability that causes the problem. Also, do make it clear, that whenever the employee comes across a difficulty, they are welcome to come and ask you for guidance.
Consider the employee's needs
It may be, that them not being met causes the drop in the quality of work. Sometimes it may be a while before they notice the problem themselves.
Track the progress
... of the problematic team members to verify your decision to keep them on.
Offer rewards for best workers
However risky, this may be one way to encourage a high quality working morale. Should you decide on this approach, do remember to underline that the way to get a reward is by doing things best, not quickest and with use of unethical ways.
Perfect the hiring process
... to eliminate the unsuitable people at the very beginning, as this may be a saving of a lot of time and resources.
1. Focusing on problems rather than on solutions
If the milk has already been spilled, it's no use to go on analysing it, it's much more advisable to concentrate on finding possible solutions or work-arounds the issue. In other words – looking ahead brings more value in this instance than looking back. This also goes for trying to find the one person to blame for the problem, instead of identifying the ideal person to find a solution.
2. Engaging in management methods that no-one will ever follow
It's great that you've got the whole strategy planned out, but if the manner in which you're putting it forward to your team, together with possibly poor way in which it was presented and organized, it may be very difficult to expect people to follow it. In the end, if they don't buy it – they won't do it. It's usually the best approach here to involve the team in making these kinds of plans and dividing up the work. Not to mention open-plan solution, like Kanban, in which the process in completely transparent and flexible.
3. Constantly checking the inbox
Instead of breaking any of your productivity streaks, it's usually much more effective to check the mail at set times of the day only. This way you're keeping your focus on whatever else you're meant to be doing, also answering the emails in bulk makes the answering itself more effective.
4. Completing project reports, evaluations and charts just for the sake of getting them done
Yes, most of the times you don't get to choose whether you want to do this or not, even though it brings no value. But perhaps there is room to discuss whether this is really necessary? Or simplifying it. If nothing else – since it brings no real value anyway, why not optimizing the template in such a way, that you can reuse the whole thing or at least some phrases, paragraphs?
5. Extensive planning and analysing the best approaches to problems – rather than taking action
This touches on procrastination a bit. It's typical, for those of us who happen to be reluctant in their approach to getting a job started, to meticulously plan it, think it through and weight all the possibilities – instead of getting on with it. Once you learn to realize that you're doing it – it may become easier to stop this pattern. Or to plan on stopping it...
6. Following someone's footsteps rather than setting own path
In business – more often than not – copying someone's approach tends to create an inappropriate environment for your work. You may find that large numbers of tasks you took on have led to not valuable results, but were easy to do. Working out solutions tailored to what you do and what you want to achieve seems like a time well spend. Doesn't it?
7. Doing a job you hate
Although its wastefulness could be argued, since you are making money, after all, you are really demotivating yourself by staying in a position that brings no satisfaction nor pleasure to your day. However idealistic, it's true. It's never too late for a change.
How to Manage Someone Smarter than You?18 Feb 2015
Any employer knows the little dilemma of wanting to hire the best and being terrified of having to manage someone a lot more skilled or intelligent than themselves.. it's tricky! If you don't understand their work nor some of the language they use – where do you get the authority to be the boss?
Provide guidance on what they do, not how they do it
This is a simple and logical advice. Rather than getting bogged down in the details, try establishing a route, on taking which you and your team member agree.
Show them respect
By focusing on listening to what they have to say, addressing their needs instead of just bossing them around, you stand a chance of creating a respectful, working relationship. This will also facilitate their growth.
Inspire and motivate
As a leader, your role is not showing the team how much smarter you are, it is aiding them by providing the most suitable means of motivation and individual inspiration.
Help out in any conflicts between the top thinkers
Use your objectivity and detachment from the core of the argument to mitigate the situation to reach a common, healthy solution or compromise
Ask insightful questions
In general, you don't want to know the details of how they're going to achieve something, all you need to know is what is their objective, the specific target and what is the result they're aiming to get.
Allow for senior oversight
Facilitating a connection between your top employee and a senior specialist of the same field, creates learning opportunities for your top workers and validates what they do with authoritative figures.
Cut the worst out of the picture
By asking your ultra smart employee to cooperate with weakest “chain-links” is demoralizing for both sides. It's preferable if you have a common working approach and skill among your team members. If you don't get rid of the under-performers, you'll most likely lose the creative and effective members.
Cut out distractions and obstacles
If the real value of an employee lies in his ability to do a lot and well, you may want to utilize this to the fullest. So, make sure your best worker doesn't need to spend hours in useless meetings, on writing dull reports or organizing things, which can be organized for him by someone else.
To sum up, when managing people smarter than you, not taking a bossy approach, treating them humane, allowing rest, growth and space to do their job seems to be the way to go.
Ever wondered what is the one property of a task board (or a Kanban board), that defines whether the board adds to your success and makes your work easier or not? Do you go after the looks, the functionality, the costs or something completely different entirely (or all)?
How does transferring of the information from a board to your memory works anyway? According to Karl Scotland, there are three stages to establishing a Kanban board well within your mind and memory (both of which are necessary for proper utilization of the tool).
First – you develop a mental model in your mind (what you think the board looks like) Second – the board's actual usability encourages you to keep going back to look at it Third - the model gets reinforced by your constant going back to the board, until you don't really need to look at it in order to know what's there.
So, the only thing we all really need from a Kanban board is its usability and a design, that encourages looking at it.
Edward Tufte wrote a great book on The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, in which he explained what are the best ways to visualize the information in order to make it readable, accessible and effective as a means of communication with the team.
One of the things he mentions is the correctness of a board design, basing on having the time-frame along the horizontal axis, and another value along the vertical one. Because what is normally presented in Kanban on the horizontal line is status, not time, it may seem an irrelevant piece of information. However, seeing that the status does change WITH time, there is some satisfying compliance with this time-frame rule.
The Kanban multiverse
A reasonable Kanban board will show scope (or work areas) along the vertical and status along the horizontal line then. According to Tufte, what makes Kanban boards multi-variant (bringing more than one type of information, by use of more than one way) is the board's ability to take in a lot of details and spread them on the display in a logical and intuitively informative way.
Data ink and data density
The most valuable point that Tufte makes is that the amount of data ink – the actual wording of the task description appearing on the board – should be minimal. It needs to be compressed to the very merit, as anything else will only be a distraction. As for the data density – the amount of information held in one area of the board – needs to be maximized in order to allow the board users to take a glance at the board and get as much from it as possible. So, shorten your task descriptions and place the cards close together on a relatively compact board.
What makes Kanban multi-variant
A well designed Kanban will provide information on not only the scope and status, but on resources, work quality, priority, assignment, risks, constraints, dependencies, time and other. There is also room for displaying information on capacity, demand, throughput, value and impediments. The means to achieving this multi-level communication tool are task item's variations in size, color, alignment, format, location etc. With physical boards, there is also the ability to use different materials and textures to accentuate different problems. A virtual board, on the other hand, allows a vast number of graphic information in form of simple icons (priority, presence of any links within the cards, checklists, comments, due dates, employee assignment, task difficulty and many others).
Kanban Tool allows you to customize the way the card looks, and what type of information it holds inside. Thanks to a minimalistic design of the board, the ability to zoom in and out of the board view, and the clarity of the cards, together with distinctively different card colors, KanbanTool allows for placing a lot of data on a small amount of space and acquiring “at a glance” information from it. All you need from a helpful Kanban board.
What's the Best Way to Learn Something?04 Feb 2015
Ambition. Overrated? Overused? Abused? Promoting development or unhealthy? In order to get to anything (yes, anything at all) in life, you've got to learn. Anything you're going to want to do will require some skill or knowledge. What are the best ways to learn something then?
Very quickly many experts provide this answer, and it has been proven to be true. However not all of us have the ability to do this, particularly with the simpler of skills. So:
No one can deny, this is the way to go. Practice makes perfect, repetition creates great habits, reinforced further by changing approach to the exercise (trying different things in order to get one result). This will also prevent you from getting bored too quickly.
Don't take too much on in a one go
Unless you're a genius, there will be a limit to how much you can absorb at once. It's usually best to divide the load into smaller items and work through them gradually. By the way, you will enforce the knowledge taken in as first, which will very likely support your understanding of the new material.
Go from the general to the detailed
If what you're learning is complex, it will make a lot of sense to start with some building blocks. So, take one step at a time. Also, by understanding the overall idea first, the detailed information will make a lot more sense to you once you get to it.
You do know that Rome indeed was not built in a day, don't you? You need to stay committed to what you're trying to master - yes, it will take time, but it will be worth it.
Don't expect to see the results right away
This is probably the most difficult of them all, being ready to give up the need to get instant results. Things will take time, perhaps you could trick yourself into thinking that because it takes time it is adding value.
Use the way that is best for you
We don't all learn in the same way, so the advice that a friend gave you doesn't need to work for you. There are 3 basic types of learning attitude: watching (imitating), analyzing (breaking down) and doing (trying out). Pick the one that's right for you.
Even if you'll only take one tip form this, just having a quick think about how you wish and like to learn will probably benefit the way you do it. Whichever approach you take on in your learning, above all - try to enjoy it!
Grab these clever ideas on making your day more productive, successful and satisfying. Applying most of them requires a minimum amount of effort, and the benefits can be very rewarding. Particularly, if it's the way you see your day and what you've achieved that is being improved!
Make a plan
Sort through your tasks and align them in a way starting with the most difficult and concentration-demanding and ending on the light, easy work. Update your to-do list and calendar, make sure you know what you and the team are doing and that everything is arranged and the information distributed.
Eat that frog
This is the most popular and probably one of the most effective methods of making a start of the workday. (The name comes from Brian Tracy’s book on time management.) Get the most difficult and most hated jobs you've got ahead for the day and do them first. This way, the rest of the day has a lot of potential of being pure joy, hasn't it? You also get the great boost of having already completed the big task of the day, so energy and satisfaction shall stay with you for the rest of it.
If part of your job is service work (answering queries, solving issues, providing information etc.), it may be a good idea to do this first, in order not to get distracted later. In general, there is a choice to be made with these kinds of jobs - whether you want to respond ASAP (and provide great service but be constantly interrupted) or to make set times during the day for checking the emails or tickets (and respond less promptly, but accomplish far more overall). Whichever you prefer, it's usually a good start of the day to check in and see what's there to deal with.
Try something new
When you're still fresh and full of energy (presumably), this time of day may be the best opportunity for making some kinds of experiments with new ideas, new tools, new approaches to common problems, fresh solutions and so on. Also, starting something new will demand a lot of your attention and strength, so doing it before you're tired makes sense.
So, do you feel like giving any of these a go? All of the above are worth trying, as very often making a good start is key to having a great day altogether.
Say you could change your productivity in one easy step - what would it be? Being able to instantly tell the difference between what's important and what's urgent.
It may seem simple when you think about it, but in the heat of work we do tend to get our focus misplaced sometimes. As humans, we are built in a way that makes us drop everything on the sight of an urgent task,
a notification or somebody's request. This isn't necessarily a good thing. It's not always, that the urgent job should be prioritized over the important one.
Here are some ideas for you to implement in order to get your focus right and therefore save massive amounts of time:
Disallow all notifications
It's rare that a notification will be as vital as to demand your immediate attention - the world really will not collapse if you read them all in bunches every couple of hours rather than keep checking and loosing focus every few minutes.
Learn to decline "urgent" requests for help, their urgency for others doesn't need to mean it's crucial for you to do. On top of this, you'll be respected more if you're known to say no every once in a while.
Limit the number of things you're going to work on during the day
Multitasking is bad for efficiency. Focusing on a small number of jobs in a day allows you to do get better results than by doing the same work in bits (no time wasted on switching and refreshing your memory).
Stop watching tv
Not much good ever comes from a TV that is always on. Just think of the number of hours you're spending on watching programs, and often of a dubious quality.
Put a date on your plan
How often do you find yourself thinking: one day I'll write a book, start going to the gym or learn to play a harp. "One day" is not good enough, but if you make it "this March" or even better - "on the 2nd of March" - then you really get a chance to actually make a start on it.
Force yourself to push the important tasks onto your daily task plan:
It's too easy to say: as soon as I've done 1, 2 or 3 I can get working on the main thing. This is a special kind of tricking yourself into believing that all is well. But really, you're just stalling, putting the really important stuff off and just welcoming distractions.
Instead of cutting losses, decide what is ineffective work and forget about doing it at all:
You may be superbly efficient, but you'll never be able to get 100% of what's expected, asked and requested from you across all fields. There is always some email you'd be answering only to tick it off while knowing too well it will not produce any value. There also are calls that returning brings no effect. The same goes for your work - some things are done "just because", not for their actual value. Forget about them, focus on the important stuff.
To sum up - there are some things you can start doing any moment in order to improve your efficiency and make time savings. Some easier than other, but all bringing you closer to being more productive (hence more appreciated) and to having more time for other things. And all that is required from you to achieve this is learning to recognize what's urgent and what's important.
Improve your Work with a Kanban Calendar!14 Jan 2015
Kanban is a very simple project management method, built on visualization of the process and limitation of the work in progress. It's popular to set the workflow in such a way that the visibility of tasks will be clearly aligned with a calendar view.
A calendar driven Kanban board
From Kanban Tool available templates you can pick a time-driven Kanban board, which will allow you to plan the work in a way that utilizes the coming days of the week. You can just as well adapt this template to reflect the full week's shape and plan your work accordingly.
The Kanban Tool calendar widget
Alternatively, you can just stick the basic Kanban rule, which is splitting the workflow into three columns: a backlog, an in progress column and a finished one. But to stay on top of delivery dates and all your time-restricted obligations, simply apply a due date to all the tasks that you put onto the board. When the due date approaches - you will see it highlighted in the Kanban calendar widget on the right hand side of the board view. And on the day of the planned task completion you will get a distinct visual sign that a particular task needs attention - impossible to miss now!
Special events planning
There are occasions and business models, when an even more direct approach to a Kanban calendar is acceptable. Special occasions, like Christmas or holidays (or working in an event planning business), may get you to plan the upcoming events even more calendar-like as far as their concept is concerned. What is left to do then is to plan your actions in detail, still apply a WIP limit and hope that you can get all things done within a planned period of time. And if not - you can just swipe the unperformed task (with all information attached to it) into another day.
Choose your favourite way
Whichever way - whether the more Kanban-true or the Calendar-driven you prefer, Kanban Tool will allow you to get the best results possible. With online attachments, Time Tracking, comments, checklists, unlimited access, complete flexibility, email notifications, popular file hosting services integration and more - Kanban Tool will make your plans get realized in their full shape, extend, with tremendous effectiveness and ..on time.
8 Best Time-Saving Tips07 Jan 2015
Learn to tell the difference between what's important and what isn't, since the latter is just a waste of time, in the long run.
2. Action before procrastination
Don't blow things out of proportion - if there is something that can be done in 5 minutes, do it right away, rather than plan on doing this later.
3. Memory aids
Don't count on your memory - use anything else than this, whether it's a basic notepad or an advanced productivity tool.
Plan your work and sum up your work - this helps to dismiss useless tasks and keep you calm, relaxed and satisfied.
Make an office rule of no chatting apart from designated times (coffee break, lunch break) - the less interruptions, the better the productivity.
6. Limit your availability
Introduce timed availability to answer emails and phone calls, staying open to them all day ruins your focus and wastes time.
7. Say no
Feel free to say no and to delegate jobs!
8. Stay healthy
Allow yourself to be time-efficient by keeping yourself in a tip-top shape: eat well, sleep well, rest and yes - exercise :)
See many more great time-saving ideas in the presentation below:
Season's Greetings from Kanban Tool!23 Dec 2014
Best wishes for Holidays and New Year from everyone at Kanban Tool. We give you the gift of productivity!
2014 in 5 features19 Dec 2014
As the year comes to an end, we are summing up Kanban Tool's growth. We are very happy to share with you the 5 best of this year's newly implemented Kanban Tool features.
We've introduced seamless Time Tracking with Time Report, a function allowing to monitor the time, that is spent on each particular task. In the Time Report you can view a summary or detailed record of exactly how long things took.
My Work widget
We have also made it possible for each team member to manage his or hers own tasks personally - with My Work widget. It lets each user to create a task queue of items from - possibly - many different boards. In the widget you can also postpone tasks for any amount of time and on the tasks' return to the list, they will be visibly highlighted, to ensure you notice them. Very useful when working on multiple Kanban boards.
File hosting services integration
Also from this year you can attach files directly from your favorite file hosting service (Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive or Box). This makes work and cooperation even more simple.
To make your teamwork even more efficient, we've thought of creating a good way of making an information radiator out of your Kanban board. Check out Kanban Cast - a great Kanban Tool and Chromecast integration. Now you can radiate the workflow onto your team, and make sure that everyone is visually updated in real time.
Integration with SAML 2.0
Keeping the big teams in mind, we've made a one click access to Kanban Tool possible. By integrating your Kanban Tool account with SAML 2.0 your team can log in to the service with just one press of a button.
Stay tuned to make sure you don't miss any of the new functions coming along in 2015! There will be a lot happening!
Christmas preparations with Kanban Tool16 Dec 2014
However enjoyable, Christmas can be a very stressful time. The number of things to prepare, plan for and organize is not a small one. If you're afraid that you'll forget your In-Law's present or that you'll end up with no hard candy for your nieces or that not a branch of mistletoe will turn up in your home - you may want to calm your nerves with getting properly organized.
With Kanban Tool you can simply make a board for this coming week and get cracking! It will be even more fun of you get your family involved - you can delegate Christmas duties to each family member and that way you'll have less on your plate and everyone can feel christmasly involved!!
Spread your Christmas jobs along the week so that you don't get bombarded with things to do on Christmas Eve, and enjoy pulling one task at a time into the Doing column - and than sliding it to Done! Make sure that this year's Christmas preparations don't get the better of you!
Christmas preparations can be hard, but with Kanban Tool they can also be fun!!
We are continuously working to make Kanban Tool even more user-friendly and we've now made it possible to change around the order in which the information fields appear on your Kanban card.
Here is what your default card look like:
Now, just by going to Settings and Card Template, you can change the order of the fields. Simply drag and drop the fields in the places that you feel are most useful for any particular information field. To drag the fields please grab the arrows on the left side of the field.
Always remember to save the changes you've made at the bottom of the window. Here is an example of a completely new card, tailored to your needs.
Enjoy this new option and stay tuned to always be up-to-date with all new Kanban Tool features!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts!!28 Nov 2014
With holidays approaching and the big shopping season kicking in, Kanban Tool offers great discounts for new Kanban Tool users!
Throughout the weekend - when registering for our service - you'll get 33% off for 3 months! And that's on top of the free trial.
Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity to get started with the original Kanban Tool. To benefit from the discount, sign up here. This offer ends on Monday night, don't miss it!
A Highly Productive Sprint18 Nov 2014
We all get pushed and pressed sometimes. Whether it's an impending deadline, more of an every week is too short kind of deal, or getting stuff done in advance because of going away for some time - we've all been known to get out act together and just get things done at an astounding pace (and hopefully - with a good result too).
What is the best approach then?
Is it the best idea to just get plunged into work, forget eating, sleeping and breaking and simply squeezing every last bit of effort out of yourself? It may be! But there are some things you could do in order to help yourself out.
Plan a time line with accordance to your habits
There's no point to say that you'll be getting up at 6am to do the work, if it's normal for you to sleep until 9. You know yourself best, so be honest and point out what is your most productive time of day and maybe extend this by an hour before and after to make the most of your effective working hours.
Stick to this plan
A clever way to make sure you keep your deadline is making it public. Use social media or just speak to your friends about your commitment and the plan, they will be sure to mock you if you don't hold up to your words! Alternatively, if a prospective reward is a better motivator for you, plan a rewarding night out, the purchase of a long-desired item or a little holiday. Then you'd have something to look forward to at the end of this productive run. Any of these two will create a good amount of pressure, motivating you to do what you're meant to.
More on the plan: make outlines of what you need to do each day
These can be rough estimates, just to give you an idea of what amount of tasks more-less you should have done by the end of the day. Very much like on a route map, let yourself see where exactly you are on the road to completing the job.
Yes, yet more planning
Once you've set out the general goal, and estimated more less what you'll be doing each day, it's a great idea to decide on a good sprint length for you. If you aim to work for 8 hours a day, you might like to do 30 or 45-minute long sprints with 10 minute breaks in between them. Or, if your focus is better than 45 minutes, try doing 1,5 hours with 10-15 minutes of rest. This way the day seems shorter and you get a satisfying feeling of completion after each run. Whichever system you decide on, it's highly recommended to take little walks (even if it's around the room) every so often, just to get the circulation going.
The overall benefits
Doing that kind of a productive sprint benefits you not only in the short term, but it also lets you prove to yourself how much you can get done within a given amount of time, once properly motivated. This can not only boost your self-confidence, but can work as motivation to further exceed your expectations of yourself.
A fantastic help to run a highly productive sprint is Kanban Tool.
Once you know the goal, plan your sprint's process in Kanban Tool's columns, then split the job into task items as small as possible, place them in the backlog and pull tasks when you're ready for them. Use due dates, comments, checklists and the Calendar and My Work widgets to plan even more meticulously. Success and pleasure in running towards the goal are guaranteed.
How to best manage a remote team?11 Nov 2014
It is not unusual nowadays to cooperate on a regular basis with people stationed not only in other parts of the building or town, it's normal to have colleagues in other cities and countries. It occurs commonly and works great. It allows employers to really choose the best person for the job - the wider the search spectrum - the larger the choice. So it all looks great, but the question remains: how does one manage a remote team?
1. Apply team goals
The one thing you absolutely need to see in your remotely working employee is self discipline. Provided they don't lack that, the solution can work great for everyone. A great thing you (the employer) can do to make sure that your remote employees do actually get somewhere, that they don't lack motivation or feedback, is setting properly presented goals. By properly presented we should understand goals, that clearly outline the purpose of the task as a part of a larger job (the employee needs to know how his contribution fits in with the other tasks, performed by his colleagues).
The way the goal is set also has to make the employee personally responsible for the task's results (where there is no responsibility, there often is no attention). What would be also useful, is if there was some kind of a system for self-motivation; receiving instant feedback (e.g. Kanban Tool's comments and simply board sharing, allowing each team member to see the others' work) and a summary of the work creates a satisfying and hence motivating impulse.
Summing up the desired goal style - it would work great, if you started your remote team management by implying the SMARTER goals rule. The rule states that the goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound, Engaging and Resourced. So, make the goals known to all members, demand a weekly report on their activities and remember to provide feedback.
2. Concentrate on results
To stay within the idea of remote co-working, it would be best to allow the team members to manage their own time, thereby proving that you put trust in them. Having stated that, it is important to demand that for set meetings they do show on time. For the team members to do the job well, they will require a tool that will make this possible - a visual management aid. Rather than waste time on asking for details and explanations, they need to be able to focus on completing the job as quick and well as possible.
3. Make the jobs shorter in time
Instead of assigning long-term tasks, try to cut them into small sprints (and sprints into well manageable tasks). This will allow the employee to focus on one task at a time and henceforth complete it much quicker and more efficiently. Nothing makes people slower and more unfocused than a distant due-date. Also, creating long-term tasks means that tasks will be overlapping with each-other. And this implies that your employees will have to multitask, sooner or later. This is never good for the quality of results (the importance of WIP limits).
4. Make the communication frequent and effective
It is an important part of the process for both sides of the remote team arrangement. Without regular check-up chats, the employee might feel isolated and the employer will not be up-to-date with what the team is doing. As with many things, it usually works best, if you establish a regular form of contact, whether it's group emails, conference calls or daily check-up phone calls. The best thing is to use an online tool for remote teams collaboration. This allows team members to not only see the tasks assigned to them as well as others, but also to make comments and share attachments. When applying a remote team model, communication is crucial.
5. Ensure that team spirit is present even at long distances
To make this happen, use a strategy that will include regular conference calls (it's a great team-building exercise if the meetings are conducted by a different team member each time), making effort to do video conferences for people's birthdays and substantial team and solo achievements. Also make sure that the team uses the comment or checklist functions, making sure that they really are able to co-work. It's a splendid idea to make sure your team is able to have their say with regards to improvements.
6. Use the best team / project management tool
Taking previous points into consideration, you might like to apply Kanban Tool. Divide the jobs into small tasks, assign them to your team members and limit the work in progress to a minimum. Team members will then be able to pull tasks when they're ready for them and to fully concentrate - seeing that no other tasks are distracting them. What's more - you, as the team manager - will have full access to the time reports, seeing how much time is spend on tasks by each and every team member, no matter where they are. Just by looking at your Kanban board the team can see the state of the project from their homes!
No matter the project's shape and size - good teamwork is key to making it work and to actually work well. What are the most common obstacles and difficulties when it comes to teamwork? How to best overcome them? Kanban Tool provides an enormous scope for teamwork improvement. In fact, the most common problems can be highly improved upon, just by implementing Kanban Tool.
1. Long meetings with endless hours of discussion, which conclude with disproportionatelly little directives
When using visual management tool, such as Kanban Tool, the real need for meetings really drops to one a week, one a month. This is because all current tasks are accessible at a glance - and to everyone. The team know what they are doing, as well as what their colleagues are doing. Any comments can be made in the task cards, and all people involved will get the memo. All there is left to discuss are new ideas and new schedules - these can be added to the backlog, commented on initially and by that - be pre-discussed when it comes to the once-a-month meeting.
2. The need for swift communication of project status and task assignment
When a new task is added to the Kanban board, it becomes visible to all people using it. All that is left is either for the manager to assign the task to someone, or - if this is your work model - for an available team member to pull it for himself. No need to discuss it any further.
3. Distribution of documents and updating / overwriting them in such a way that all of the team are aware of changes
The tasks in Kanban Tool can have attachments added to them. This way you can add as much and as detailed information, as you like. And once you change it - just change the attachment version (or even better - use the cloud attachments, so that they update automatically).
4. Inability to find the cause of a recurring problem
If a certain type of a task is constantly done incorrectly and there is no-one to "blame" - with Kanban Tool finding the root of the problem will be easy. By assigning tasks to people you are ensuring that their development will be traceable to the creator.
When communicating verbally, and in large groups, in loud and "fun" meetings - miscommunication is unavoidable. The level of concentration and the ability to remember is not highest during boring, weekly meetings. Why not just leave everything to the written word? It's clear, explicit, and more permanent than a spoken command. People can go back to it, when in doubt or when memory just fails.
6. Inequality, that stems from team members not being able to present the amount of work that goes into their tasks, that are perceived as easy by others - and the other way round - unfair taking a lot of credit for short-lasting, easy tasks
Once you implement Kanban Tool with seamless Time Tracking, there will be no room for making it seem that a particular job takes much longer than it actually does. The proof will be in the time records. This is a great opportunity to evaluate your team - with regards to their effort and actually - their honesty.
7. Inability to match tasks to the best person available, that leads to many people doing things they don't know much about or don't like
With Kanban Tool Analytics the team manager (or anyone else, for that matter) can clearly see how good people are at which kinds of jobs. Thanks to this kind of information, it is very simple to match a task to a team member and to get everyone working on the things they are good at.
8. No clarity with regards to who does what and what are they trying to achieve as a team
Kanban Tool is a visual project management tool, therefore all users have a quick access to everyone else's progress. By setting the columns and swimlanes correctly you can ensure that people remember what is the common goal.
9. No accounting for people's actions, a kind of anonymity - which causes lack of dedication and responsibility
If you don't receive any sort of feedback and are aware that your effort will not be evaluated or traced back to you, chances are you will not try your absolute best. We'd all like to think that we perform exactly the same when supervised that when we're independent, but this is certainly not true. In Kanban Tool tasks are assigned to users and followed by Analytics. Nowhere to hide from what you've created and what you've let slide.
10. To high a level of competitiveness among the team members - may lead to putting their own goals ahead of common team goals, not to mention the amounts of unnecessary stress and bad blood involved
There is no real way to cut out the competitiveness really. Many would say that it is needed, to improve overall performance of all. But it still has to make sense. If you assign similar sort of tasks to different people, and later evaluate not only the speediness of their performance, but also its quality - a kind of competition measured fairly only shows the real value of your team.
11. Low flexibility - creates a stressful environment and puts unnecessary limits on the team
With Kanban Tool flexibility is welcome. Whether it comes to working hours, workplace, types of jobs, types of businesses - it's always up to you how you want to use your Kanban board. Because it is an online tool - it can be accessed from everywhere and anytime. Extensive board and function customization options allow you to make Kanban Tool fit your organization like a glove.
12. No met deadlines or a strong tendency to miss them
Keeping deadlines is one of the things that makes our business look reliable. With Kanban Tool it is easy to stay on top of your commitments. Make sure to use due dates to follow your progress with accordance to making the dates. Seeing the days remaining on the cards will make it difficult to forget them. You can also use My Work widget reminders, just to be sure.
13. Very little contribution from some members and lots of it from others
Teamwork needs to be teamwork - use Analytics filtered by users to see exactly how much each member contributes. You can look at the difficulty of their tasks and the time they took to do them. This is an easy way to evaluate team's performance.
14. Inability to focus on one task at a time, leading to low productivity and low motivation, as well as very poor job satisfaction.
This is the most vital aspect of Kanban - limiting work in progress to a minimum. This way you can completely focus on one thing at a time, therefore getting much better results. Not only will the quality of your work increase, but your work experience (far less chaos) and work satisfaction (getting much more done in a much better atmosphere) will rise too.
So, make sure you're utilizing all of Kanban Tool's features, and following all the essential rules to ensure a really well-working teamwork.
We are pleased to announce the introduction of My Work widget. This is the one, that all Kanban Tool users, and our CEO especially, have been impatiently waiting for. But here it is now!
Kanban Tool is all about managing your work and My Work widget will help you organize it further still.
Together with Time Tracking, this is what enables you to meticulously plan and manage your work for a day or a week. Regardless of how many Kanban boards you have, in My Work widget you can display the tasks that you plan to do next, sort them with accordance to your preferences (prioritize) and even postpone for a set amount of time (x hours / x days / a specific date). When the time comes to work on a task, you will be reminded by the widget.
In this widget you will be notified when a new task has been assigned to you (the task will be listed in My Work widget). Also, when other team members make comments to your tasks, the title of that task will appear in bold, so you can see that there has been some new activity.
This is the feature, that enables you to use a number of Kanban boards efficiently and comfortably.
Please take note, that this widget is only available to users that have enrolled to a pricing plan that includes Time Tracking and Time Report features (Unlimited and Enterprise plans).
Switch to Enterprise or Unlimited pricing plan and start using My Work widget with Kanban Tool today.
Today we are happy to introduce Kanban Cast - Kanban Tool's take on Chromecast. This will enable all Chromecast owners to create an insightful information radiator, based on a Kanban board.
Chromecast is the name of a streaming device, that works when plugged into a tv's HDMI port. It will mirror the screen of the particular device that it was plugged into. Therefore - if you plug it into a tv and to your computer (although it can be most modern devices that use Chrome) - you'll be able to create - from your Kanban Tool - a perfect information radiator.
The reason that it makes a great impact, is that Kanban is mainly used by teams, that need to communicate effectively. To allow a swift information flow and reduce time spent on meetings and establishing common versions of a particular problem - just place an information radiator in a well-seen spot, so that everyone on the team can see the state of things at a glance.
The two main characteristics of a succesful information radiator are - the necessity for the information to change and adjust to current workflow, and the need for it to be very easily understood. Ideally, people should get the gist of the info just by glancing at it when walking by. This - combined with the idea of Kanban (visualize workflow and limit WIP) - makes the ultimate Kanban Radiator.
Now, what is left for you to do is, provided that you have a Chromecast, switch it on in Kanban Tool board view (right next to the tools+ section). Of course, you need to have the Chrome browser installed, together with the Google Cast extension. Make sure that your big screen is in a place visually accessible to all team members - on a wall, at which everyone can glance or a spot by a frequented doorway.
The application of Kanban Cast makes for great communication and efficiency within the team. Team members know a great deal of their work-mates' tasks, henceforth have a better idea of the big picture that they all contribute to. Also finding potential problems and problem-solvers is much easier, when all the goings-on are transparent to the whole team.
Switch on your Kanban Cast and start radiating the workflow onto your team with Kanban Tool today.
There are those of us lucky enough to work for themselves and report to no-one. The rare kind, who don't have a manager above their head. This can be a good or a bad thing. It's fantastic not to have to attend management meetings nor take orders. To decide on your own working hours and holidays. Great to be the decision maker in all aspects of the business.
The downside is, that it can prove quite tricky to stay on top of everything you have to do and to get in done on time. You are the one entity doing a wide range of jobs: getting supplies, advertising your services, contacting customers and doing follow-ups, delivering goods, arranging and tracking payments, accounting, perfecting your skills, networking, and finally working on the product or delivering the service itself. Get using Kanban Tool and:
- Set due dates - nothing more motivating than a date visibly hanging in front of you. Use either a due date field, or set a striking color change if a task has not been touched for too long (Card aging Power-Up).
- Write yourself comments to never forget that one thing your client asked you for, that you were certain you wouldn't forget, but ...what was it? Make notes and comments as you go and stay ahead of yourself.
- An extensive backlog will never let you lose an inspired idea. You may always change your mind about it, but it will be by choice, not by human memory failure. Some of the best ideas arrive when you're not actually working - send an email onto your board, where you'll describe the inspiration and think it over later, whenever you're ready.
- Concentrate on one job at a time - limit work in progress - that is the one and most important thing in Kanban. Give yourself some peace of mind by making a conscious choice not to be working on more than x number of tasks ever again. Relieve yourself of the constant mind chatter working over the things you ought to be doing while you're doing something else. Leave the planning to Kanban Tool, armed with your desired policy and process.
- Never again forget about a client meeting, a pick up or delivery - link tasks to a calendar, and it will remember it for you.
- Measure work stages (use Kanban Tool's time tracking) to be able to plan better. This will allow you to provide better estimates on submission times, henceforth making you more reliable and professional. No one likes news of a delay. Also, if it happens that you charge an hourly rate for your service, this will enable you to rightly price your effort. Especially valuable for real passionate / artistic freelancers - because you love the work, you forget yourself to it and what seems like a joyful hour could have actually been 6.
- Police yourself - add column policies and relations, which will make sure that you follow the correct steps of your process, without omitting anything crucial or skipping a minor, but necessary step.
- Achieve kaizen in your one-man business. Observe and analyze your patterns and statistics. By noticing regularities and dependencies it will be much easier to constantly improve yourself.
Get started with Kanban Tool today and find out for yourself how much easier and better freelancing can be!
It stays simple:
Instead of trying to overwhealm users with new features, Kanban Tool leaves the choice to you. Power Ups allow choosing how much more complex you want it to be, it does not force features upon you. Therefore, Kanban Tool is not a hoarder of functions - more of a curator.
Kanban Tool adjusts to your needs:
Easily make your board look and work the way you want it to, simply by creating desired number of lanes and columns, assigning the right policies and color-coding your task cards. Make good use of due dates, checklists and comments to ensure easy and effective communication in your team.
Being useful is its priority:
However cool new features are, Kanban Tool's objective is usefulness, hence we are always prioritizing the improvements in a way that puts usability increase over the design boost only.
Best time-tracking among available kanban board services and software:
- - interactive - users can decide when their work has started, paused, finished
- - users have the ability to edit their time records (when doing work off premises or when tracking was let going but the job was held up)
- - seamless - the tracker follows your work without you having to mind it. Simply move the task to a column that is set as an In Progress column
Kanban Tool is fun and easy to use:
Once your columns are all set and Work In Progress properly limited - card creating, editing and pulling could not be simpler. Try it for yourself today!
SAML - One-Click Access to Kanban Tool10 Sep 2014
Our team continues to develop Kanban Tool's functionality, keeping the product powerful and scalable for large organizations. Now, we are happy to offer you quick and secure access to Kanban Tool with SAML2 based One-Click authentication. This solution will help you centralize the access control and allow your employees to access Kanban Tool and other services without a password.
Identity management and single sign on is provided by many vendors, including online cloud identity providers such as OneLogin and SecureAuth. To learn how to configurate it, please visit our support site.
Kanban Tool On-Site Version 302 Sep 2014
Today, we have some exciting news to share. We are happy to announce the version 3 of Kanban Tool On-Site. The new edition brings over 600 changes, including seamless time tracking, time reporting and a collection of new Power-Ups.
Are you using Kanban Tool On-Site version 1.x.x or 2.x.x ? Upgrade it by following instructions on the Kanban Tool Support page. We have made the upgrade path as easy as possible and it should work flawlessly on all installations.
Have you never used our on-site version before? Kanban Tool On-Site is a perfect solution if you are concerned about data security as it is fully autonomous, does not require internet connection, and allows to manage data backups according to any internal policies you may have. Find out more about it by visiting Kanban Tool On-Site.
Calendar widget13 Aug 2014
Today we would like to introduce you to a new Power-Up that you will love. Calendar widget allows you and your team to gain instant visibility into the work schedule and never miss a deadline. Visit Settings -> Power-Ups page to enable Calendar widget. A simple calendar will be added to board side panel with tasks' due dates.
New WIP limits21 Jul 2014
In response to your suggestions, we have decided to expand the work-in-progress limit options. Now you can not only limit WIP by the task count per column but also restrict the number of tasks in a column per task difficulty or per user. Check out these new possibilities! Edit column settings and select the option that is the most valuable for you.
Do you have something on your mind? Do you have a suggestion regarding Kanban Tool? You can give feedback or ask questions at email@example.com.
Auto assign Power-Up21 Jul 2014
Do you work in a team that utilizes Kanban, Scrum or Scrumban method and in which everyone independently decides about job to be performed? If yes, our new power-up is for you!
Auto assign power-up allows you to gain visibility over who is doing what in your team, without spending time on assigning tasks to each team member. With this power-up, tasks are automatically assigned to team members when they move them to columns marked as "In progress", and unassigned when they move them to "Queue / Waiting" columns. Enable new Auto assign feature by going to Settings -> Power-Ups.
Next, visit your Board editor. Edit columns in which you want tasks to be automatically assigned (choose lane type "In progress") and unassigned (select "Queue/ Waiting" lane type). Now you can fully enjoy the new power-up that brings extra convenience to software development, sales and support teams.
We look forward to your ideas for new power-ups!
Web Attachments Power-Up has been released11 Jul 2014
From images on Flickr, notes on Evernote, to GitHub pull requests and documents stored on internal network, the new Web Attachments power-up allows you to easily attach anything to tasks. Even links to other cards can be attached to create simple dependencies.
To get started, enable the Web Attachments power-up on the Settings > Power-ups page.
You got the feature, but having troubles figuring out how to use it efficiently? These few tips will guide you in the right direction to get the most value out of tracking time.
- Set up your columns! The beauty of our time tracker is that it will track time for you seamlessly. It simply follows your work flow and starts/stops timers accordingly with no additional actions required.
- Do not abandon your board. Make sure to pull your cards and indicate which cards are you working on at the moment. Your time reports and other metrics will be highly inaccurate if you decide to pull all work at last minute.
- Out of office work. You may add time entries manually when you were working on a task and haven't had chance to start it. Start a timer, press on a time entry, edit one of the entries from expanded list to reflect your real working hours.
- Great performance indicator. Cross evaluate your working time on individual card colors or tagged cards to estimate how much time they will take in the future.
- Bill by an hour? As a freelancer, accountant or any other service paid by hour, create your client cards and start your timers. Fill your client cards with useful information and use checklists for smaller tasks that count towards completion.
- High complexity projects? They will often require a more complex work flow thus consider one board per project. You will be able to generate summary reports and detailed reports of your work.
- No time entries? Scold your team and get them to use Kanban board. Having everyone on the same page is the key to successful Kanban workflow.
- Time tracker panel – use the right-side time tracking panel for all your recent activities and tasks you will be working on. Do not let yourself get flooded with tasks that are not your priority. Eliminate waste and have a clear view of your recent work.
These simple tips will ensure that Time Tracking does not go to waste. The value comes from proper usage!
10 challenges that Kanban Tool solves13 Jun 2014
Lack of organizationPerhaps the most common problem most of us are facing. Visual approach to organization will allow you to stay on top of your tasks. Keep all your work data in one place including attachments and archives.
Missed deadlinesDeadline information visible at a glance will never let you forget about important due dates. Prioritetize tasks and track how many days are left on each task from the board view.
Communication slip-upsAssign tasks and communicate the objectives with your team. Proper communication is crucial to ensure quality delivery. Spot problems early to avoid wasting time.
Overwhelmed with informationConcentrate on important tasks. Mark your items and view only the data you want to see. Filter your boards and display only needed stages and swimlanes.
Status informationSee where you are at by looking at the board and evaluating cumulative flow diagram. CFD will allow you to estimate time until completion, performance and possible bottlenecks.
InconsistencyEnforce work flow processes to ensure that team completes tasks in line with your policies. This way all work will be addressed properly.
Not agileYou will experience the real power of visual approach once you implement Kanban, Scrum or Agile methods and use WIP limits, Lead & Cycle Time estimations and Cumulative Flow Diagrams.
Limited accessOnline platform will allow you to access your work flow from anywhere on any device. Do you have access only to your email? That's more than enough as you may add tasks via email as well.
Rigid layoutNeed flexibility in creating your ideal work flow? You will be able to tailor your boards to your liking and organize work into swimlanes. Modify your cards to display only the information you want to see.
ProductivityKeep track of your activities by seamlessly tracking time and generating time reports. Check metrics and evaluate the performance to introduce adjustments.
Attach and work on files from Box20 May 2014
Box is now integrated with Kanban Tool. Our new power-up allows you to link files from your Box account to any task on your Kanban board. Now, all your work materials such as important documents, pictures, forms or worksheets are stored online in one place, ensuring maximum productivity and effective team collaboration.
To activate Box file attachments visit Power-Ups section, choose "Box" and click on a green "Enable" button. Done! Now you can attach documents to your cards directly from Box service. Enjoy!
We have something big today. We are happy to introduce seamless Time Tracking!
Why seamless? There is no extra clicking required to start your timers! Simply drag a task to your working column and the timer will start itself. You can work as usual with Kanban Tool and get insightful time reports on how you spent your time.
How to get started with seamless Time Tracking?
If you are Kanban Tool customer, upgrade to Enterprise plan. Then edit lane types for each column in Board editor. There are three possible lane types which will trigger different actions:
- Queue/Waiting - here the timer pauses.
- In progress - the timer starts.
- Done - the timer stops and the task is removed from the list of timers.
New to Kanban Tool? Create your account >> and experience how time tracking should really work.
Get deeper insight with powerful Time Reports
Wondering what your team is doing? With insightful time reports, you always know how much time your team spends on any activity. To get an overview on how your team spends time select Summary report. On the bar graph you will see the total time spent working each day.
A more detailed breakdown is also available, allowing you to track each team member's performance and logged hours.
Detailed report shows a detailed list of all timers. It displays a sum of time spent, number of tasks and total number of entries. Every time you start and pause timers a new entry is created here. Account administrators can modify and remove entries by clicking on the icons to the right of each row. Regular users can also edit and remove their entries.
You can also filter all reports by: boards, time interval, users, task types and tags.
Furthermore, you can export your reports to PDF file and print them out or simply save them as a CSV file.
If you are do not see the option to upgrade to Time Tracking (Enterprise plan), contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workflow stage notifications10 Mar 2014
Recently, we have presented you how to automatically copy tasks between different Kanban boards using Zapier. Today, we would like to show you another possibility - how to set up an email notification that is automatically send to your email address when a card is moved to a specified column.
It is particularly useful when columns on you board are assigned to team members or to specific company's departments (for example if you are using Heijunka board). The person or a department will receive an email notification right after a new task will be moved to their column.
The procedure of setting up notifications is similar to the one we have explained in the previous post How to link tasks between boards using Zapier. To start, create a Zapier account and paste your Kanban Tool API token on Zapier page. Next, choose a trigger and an action like on the picture below (of course, you can choose other email service).
Then, you should decide which column should trigger the notification. For example:
Finally, you can define the addressee of email notifications and its content. The following options are available:
- To - who will this email be sent to?
- Cc - who should be cc'd on this email?
- Bcc - who should be bcc'd on this email?
- From Name - this will be your "display name" when sending.
- From Email - from email address.
- Reply To - specify a reply address other than your own.
- Plain Body
- Attachment - a file object to be attached to the email. Plain text content will be converted into a txt file and attached.
Please, note that each email field can be supplemented with information from the card.
MOZ special offer for Kanban Tool users24 Feb 2014
With the goal to provide services of a highest value to our users, Kanban Tool is happy to announce a partnership with MOZ - a world famous marketing tool providing insightful analytics and estimates.
MOZ helps you keep all your inbound marketing data in one place, provides you with a beautiful data visualization and competitive insights. You won't find better SEO tool.
Kanban Tool users can now exclusively benefit from extended trial period on MOZ services! Use MOZ 60 days for free and improve your marketing performance. Click here to start MOZ 60 days free trail.
Did you know that you can automatically copy tasks between different Kanban boards using Zapier?
Wondering how this can help you and your company to work faster?
Lets say, you always notify your support department when tasks tagged as "important customer" are done. With Zapier, you can easily automate this. When you finish such task and move it to the "Done" column, Zapier can automagically copy it to the "Customer support" board, letting the support staff know.
How to set an automatic flow of tasks between boards? It's easy. Simply follow the steps below.
- 1. Create a Zapier account. Log into your Kanban Tool account and while on Dashboard go to "My profile" tab, then "API access". Generate your API token and paste it on Zapier page.
- 2. Start creating your own Zap by choosing a trigger and action.
- 3. Select a Kanban Tool account (Trigger)
- 4. Select a Kanban Tool account (Action)
- 5. Filter Kanban Tool triggers
- 6. Match up fields on cards
- 7. Test this Zap - to see if it works properly
- 8. Name and turn this Zap on. Your Zap is ready!
Attach files from SkyDrive11 Feb 2014
SkyDrive is another great file hosting service that Kanban Tool has integrated with to help you boost collaboration within your team. From now, you and your team members can upload files not only from computer, Google Drive and Dropbox, but also from SkyDrive!
First, to be able to attach documents from SkyDrive to your Kanban cards, please visit "Power-Ups" tab and click on "SkyDrive". Next, click "Enable" button. Integration is now ready for use.
Do you feel lost in the pile of papers you have on your desk? Would you like to keep all your documents organized and stored at one place? Now you can! Attach your files from Dropbox and Google Drive to Kanban Tool cards and collaborate on them in real-time with other team members. Try out these new power-ups!
Dropbox and Google Drive power-ups help you keep documents and tasks together. You can add files from your Dropbox and Google Drive account to any task and collaborate on them.
How to start? To attach a Dropbox or Google Drive file, simply click on the "+ add attachment" link, and choose "Attach from Dropbox" or "Attach from Google Drive" from the dropdown menu. Enjoy real-time collaboration with Kanban Tool!
Do you know any other great service to integrate with? Send us a hint!
The year 2013 was for us a year of intense work and maximal concentration on providing professional Kanban solution. We did our best to provide you with a well-designed, even more intuitive and easier to customize visual project management solution. In 2013 we have successfully released a bunch of new features and improvements. Below, we present the Big Six of the most important changes we made in Kanban Tool during 2013.
At the beginning of 2013 we have updated the look of Kanban boards. We made it much lighter, modern and user-friendly. Additionally, we have refreshed the navigation and implemented some small improvements to make it even more simple and intuitive.
Kanban Tool On-Site is the perfect solution for especially large companies that comply with the highest data security standard and cannot use cloud-based solutions. On-premise Kanban boards can be easily customized to fit businesses of all types and sizes. Moreover, they can be easily integrated with your own IT infrastructure and existing systems. Interested in Kanban Tool On-Site offer? Contact us.
Zapier enables you to connect Kanban Tool with other web apps you use to easily move your data and automate tedious tasks. You haven't tried it yet? Just visit the Kanban Tool integrations page on Zapier. Select an application you want to sync Kanban Tool with and create your first Zap.
Powerful search filters will allow you to gain greater visibility over your workflow. For more advanced filtering you can use multiple filters together.
Do you know that you can easily customize Kanban Tool to meet your needs and expectations using power-ups? The collection of power-ups provides you with additional features and widgets that allow you to personalize your Kanban boards. At the moment you can choose from the following:
The number of available power-ups is growing fast, as well as the collection of cool Developer Tools scripts. The following scripts are already available at our repository on http://github.com/kanbantool/scripts: High contrast, Large font, Card tilt, Delete all, Sorting animations, Fixed cards height, Save and done, Task done, Change column, Working time and Swimlane height.
Thank you for using Kanban Tool throughout 2013. We hope that all these improvements will positively affect your productivity, make your work easier and far more pleasant in 2014. Should you have any questions or suggestions about them, please let us know by sending feedback. Your opinions are valuable for us and help us make Kanban Tool better every year. Remember to subscribe to our blog, not to miss the next big announcements this year!
Add kanban tasks quicker with new power-up07 Jan 2014
Ben Franklin said that “time is money.” Therefore, every day our team looks for ways to improve Kanban Tool so you can work faster and save your valuable time. Today, we are happy to introduce a new power-up which will enhance your performance.
"Add task box" power-up speeds up creating new cards on your kanban board. It adds a simple box at the end of each list, allowing you to enter new tasks quickly.
That's not all! We have prepared for you a new power-up script that will help you save space on your board."Swimlane height" reduces minimal swimlanes height by adjusting it to the number of cards per swimlane.
Final Christmas countdown with Kanban board20 Dec 2013
Christmas holidays are only few days away. Everyone rushes around trying to prepare for the holidays and end up totally stressed out. We know how it is and thus we have a perfect time management tip for you. Just take it easy and prepare Kanban board that will help you to survive very last days of the Christmas rush.
Write down all things that need to be done before holidays. Organize your tasks using colors, swim lanes and priorities. Kanban board will help you finish everything on time. Then, sit back, relax and enjoy time with your family and friends.
New Developer Tools power-up scripts04 Dec 2013
We never stop improving Kanban Tool. Even if it is snowing and bitter cold. Today we have for you a brand new collection of Developer Tools power-up scripts. We hope that they will make customization and use of Kanban Tool even easier.
Save and done
This script adds a new option to a task view. If you will check the option 'Task done', the task will be saved and moved to the last column.
After activating the script, the new option "Task done" will be displayed in the context menu. It will allow you to quickly move the card to the last column on your Kanban board.
This script will help you move tasks between columns even faster thanks to an additional menu item.
Would you like to know how long the tasks are on your board? This script makes it possible. "Working time" option will allow you to see the information on how long the task is active. The time will be displayed on the card in the left corner.
Do you have any upgrade ideas or would you like to see new features being developed in the future? Send us your feedback at email@example.com.
Customize cards height13 Nov 2013
Thanks to a new script - Fixed cards height, which can be loaded with the Developer Tools power-up, you can make all cards the same height. This script blocks the auto-scaling feature of cards and makes them appear next to each other without spaces in between them.
You can choose form the following card heights: small, medium, large, XL.
We are looking forward to your ideas for future releases and new power-ups.
Revive your board with sorting animations28 Oct 2013
Would you like to add a little bit of life to your task board? If yes, we have a nice surprise for you.
Recently we have added a new script to the repository for the Developer Tools power-up.
A script Sorting animations by Adam Horesh, a programmer at Kontera Israel, adds various animations to card moves. Each card color has its own cool animation.
To enable movement animations, copy the link to the script and enter it as shown below.
Adding tasks with Siri on iOS devices21 Oct 2013
Siri is the iOS voice-controlled assistant that lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, search Google and much more.
Now, you can use Siri on iOS devices to add tasks to your Kanban Tool board! It's possible thanks to the add tasks via email feature. Each Kanban Tool board has it's own unique email address. Sending emails at this address will add tasks to your board.
To add tasks to your Kanban board via Siri, simply follow this three-step instruction.
Step 1: Add your board address (read how to generate email address that will be directly assigned to your Kanban board) to your address book, for example as „Kanban board”.
Step 2: Tell Siri to send an email using the following command:
„Send email to [recipient] about [subject] and say [email body].”
For example, to add a task to the board Kanban board with the task name Prepare a presentation and with a task description New product presentation tell Siri to:
"Send email to Kanban board about open square bracket Prepare a presentation close square bracket and say New product presentation".
Step 3: Say „Yes” to finally send the email and to add the task to your Kanban Tool board. It's done!
Do you have suggestions on how we can improve Kanban Tool? Share your ideas with us.
Work faster and smarter with Task navigator 16 Oct 2013
Our team works hard to make Kanban Tool easier and faster to use. Therefore, we are happy to announce the release of a new power-up!
Task navigator allows you to easily switch between tasks. When card is open you can quickly navigate between previous and next tasks with left/right arrows.
We look forward to your ideas for new power-ups!
New search filters15 Oct 2013
Thank you very much for your positive feedback on search filters. We are pleased that you enjoy this feature. Additionally, your emails have inspired us to add new search filters. Now you can filter cards by the update time: updated today, updated this week or updated in custom number of days.
Remember that your feedback is valuable for us. Your suggestions make Kanban Tool better.
Have you ever missed a comment or wanted to know what has been recently going on?
View recent activities of other team members and don't miss a thing!
Team activity widget adds a list of recent activities to the side-panel, which include comments, card moves and much more. To enable team activity widget, please go to the "Settings" page and choose "Power-ups" tab.
That's not all we have for you today! We have added a new script which can be loaded using Developer Tools power-up. The Delete all script adds the "delete all" option to the cell context menu.
Keep visiting our repository on http://github.com/kanbantool/scripts for more inspiration.
We’re very excited to announce the launch of power-ups! With power-ups you can customize your boards and fine-tune your experience with Kanban Tool.
For start you can choose from the following: Card Block, Card Aging and Developer Tools. We are working to add even more awesomeness soon. Stay tuned!
To get started, please go to the "Settings" page and visit the new "Power-ups" tab. Following is an outline of what you will find there.
With this power-up cards can be marked as blocked from the context menu. Blocked cards cannot be moved, they have distinctive look and a message explaining why they are blocked.
With this power-up cards without any activity become more transparent as time passes.
With this power-up you can add your own custom scripts and stylesheets to your board. A collection of cool free scripts is available on github.com/kanbantool/scripts. The following scripts are already available:
High contrast boards
This is perfect if you display Kanban Tool on large TV screens. This script adds another option to the tools menu, which changes the default colors into high-contrast ones.
Larger font on cards
Enable this script if you want to fine-tune the default font size and make it bigger. Use medium-font.css to make the font slightly bigger, and large-font.css to make it extra large. You can mix this script with High contrast to get even better experience on TV screens.
Bored with perfect card alignment? Try this out if you want to add more fun to your boards.
Powerful search filters09 Sep 2013
We’re happy to announce the launch of search filters for Kanban Tool boards. This feature will allow you to gain even greater visibility and control over your workflow. You can use search filtering option to see only these tasks that are assigned to you or to any of your team members. Moreover, you can filer cards by the custom card type and by due dates. You need more advanced filtering? No problem. You can use multiple filters together.
We hope you like the new features. We are constantly improving our online kanban boards to better meet your needs.
100% more Kanban boards and custom fields31 Jul 2013
Many of Kanban Tool users requested more boards available in Free plan. We have made your wishes come true and we've doubled the number of Kanban boards available on Free plan. Now all Free plan users can use two boards free of charge, instead of just one.
Secondly, we've increased the number of available custom fields. From now on, you can customize your kanban card template and add up to 10 custom fields to better visualize and easily manage your workflow.
If you have any suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know. Your feedback is always appreciated.
Introducing better notifications25 Jun 2013
Would you like to know what is going on with tasks that you have added to the board? Now, by default, you will receive an email notification each time the task that you have created has been commented.
We are constantly improving our service to better meet your needs. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make KanbanTool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Keeping track of a great number of projects is easy with Kanban Tool - Interview with the Director of Operational Solutions at Playworks16 May 2013
Today we present an interview with Dave Gilmore, Director of Operational Solutions at Playworks, where they envision that one day every child will have an opportunity for safe and healthy play every single day. We asked him about his work and his experience with using Kanban Tool.
KT: What do you do at work?
D.G.: My job touches on a lot of areas, but generally I focus on business services and connecting our teams to the resources that they need to achieve our mission. This ranges from administering logistical systems to training folks on software.
KT: What do you use Kanban Tool for? Can you tell us how your board looks like?
D.G.: I use Kanban Tool to keep an overall projects board that we use to report out on in-process initiatives. I also have a very specific board for our facilities, as I am constantly juggling over 20 office leases at any time and it's been great at keeping track of what stages those leases are in.
KT: In your opinion, what is the most important benefit of using Kanban Tool?
D.G.: The most important benefit of Kanban Tool is that it takes what would normally be on a messy physical board with index cards or markers, and boils it down to something more agile.
KT: What do you value most in Kanban Tool? Do you have your favorite feature?
D.G.: My favorite feature is customization and simplicity. There's nothing in Kanban Tool that you can't tailor to your exact processes, yet no matter how complex you make it, it always looks clean and simple.
KT: Thank you, Dave!
And what do you use Kanban Tool for? Please share your story with our growing Kanban community.
Kanban Tool Team is proudly supporting non-profit and educational organizations but providing discounts. Contact us to get more details.
Goal-Setting Tips That Work!10 May 2013
Goal setting is crucial for getting what you want. They help you move in the right direction. Obviously, goals will not automatically make your life better or make you rich. It’s up to you to set goals that make you happy and that are right for you. Today, we would like to show you some powerful tips that will help you to set inspiring and realistic goals.
One of the most effective ways to set goals is to utilize the S.M.A.R.T criteria. The acronym SMART has a number of slightly different variations, which can be used to provide a more comprehensive definition for goal setting:
- S - specific, significant, stretching
- M - measurable, meaningful, motivational
- A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
- R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
- T - time-based, timely, tangible, trackable
The idea behind the SMART technique is to evaluate each of your goals in terms of five criteria. Let's have a look at them:
- Specific - goals must be clear and unambiguous. Vagaries and platitudes have no place in goal setting.
- Measurable - making your goals measurable will help you know when you’re making progress, when you’re on the right track, and will motivate you to take action.
- Achievable - you should set a goal that is attainable. Based on the present restrictions such as your schedule, workload, and knowledge, do you believe you can attain the objective you set?
- Realistic - set a goal you have a realistic chance of achieving. If you set a highly unrealistic goal, it will discourage you from taking action and even taking the first step.
- Time-based - goals must have a deadline. Setting a deadline reinforces the seriousness of the goal in your mind. It motivates you to take action.
There is also an extended version of the SMART Method. It is called the SMARTEST goal setting technique that I use to fire up one’s commitment to a higher level of successful goal setting. It includes three additional criteria:
- Engaging - a goal should be stimulating and challenging enough, and should be able to rouse you from your slumber, so that you begin working towards it.
- Shifting - remember that the only thing constant in this world is change. Be flexible. Adjust your goals to changing circumstances.
- Team Effort - goals are best realized with team effort! Use the Law of Synergy to to achieve your goals faster and accelerate the results.
Goals are what keep us focused on the present. Remember to plan regular goal check-ins to gauge your progress, review your next steps and celebrate your successes.
How do you establish your goals? What is your experience with SMART and SMARTEST formula? Let us know.
How to prioritize tasks29 Apr 2013
Do you feel like you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start? Everything that requires your attention seems like a priority? We are going to show you how to prioritize your tasks and eliminate the ensuing chaos.
First, list everything that needs to be done. Then, decide about three aspects of each task.
Consider the value of each completed task in terms of the impact on the other tasks on your list. Answer a question: “If I do not complete these tasks, what will happen?” Take into account the positive results of accomplishing certain tasks on your list. What kind of benefit will it bring you?
Mark the effort required for each task. Consider the time and resources needed to complete each task.
Consider an upcoming deadline. Decide which of the items on your list must be done today, this week, this month or even this year.
Create a table (as you can see in the picture below). Rate each task in terms of importance, effort and urgency. Group the tasks with the highest importance and least amount of effort. Decide which ones need to be done first based upon upcoming deadlines. Tasks of low importance and urgency can be deferred.
How do you deal with prioritizing? Do you know any other methods you would like to share with us?
Over the weekend we have successfully released new interactive to-do-lists. Now you can view and check off listed items without opening the card itself by simply moving the mouse over the to-do-list progress bar. We hope it will enhance your experience with using KanbanTool to-do-lists.
We have added "Project manager" as a new type of account access privileges. Project managers can create new boards, share them and invite others. They can only manage the boards they have created and cannot see or access other boards unless they have been shared with them. They can invite new users, but cannot access the 'People' tab to modify their details.
Please tell us what you think about the new features and feel free to send us your comments and suggestions. Your feedback is always appreciated.
How to finally overcome procrastination?16 Apr 2013
"You may delay, but time will not." ~ Benjamin Franklin
If you’ve found yourself putting off important tasks over and over again, you’re not alone. We’ve all suffered from procrastination from time to time. Probably the worst part about procrastination is its uncanny ability to rob us of time. When it comes to work, procrastination definitely costs us dearly. In order to stop procrastinating now consider the following procrastination tips.
- There’s always more to do than can be done. Then ask yourself if you’re getting the right things done to be sure that you're moving in the right direction.
- Create challenging goals! However, remember that they should be reasonable as to not discourage you. Set hard-and-fast deadlines for your goals.
- Tell your friends about your goals. If they know about your projects, they will probably ask you about them on a regular basis.
- Break down your goals into daily tasks and make a list of them. Create hard-and-fast deadlines for your tasks.
- At the end of each day put aside 15 minutes to write a to-do list for tomorrow.
- Get rid of the distractions around you. You can clean off your desk, log out from social media or simply close the door.
- Stop over-complicating! Are you waiting for a perfect time to do something? Now is not the best time because of various reasons? Face the truth: there’s never a perfect time. Do it now!
- Examine the consequences. One way to motivate yourself is to consider the negative effects of your inaction.
- Ask for help. There is always somebody who knows the solution. Don't waste your time on figuring it out.
- Reward yourself with a break, a movie or some kind of treat as you progress. Little rewards along the way can make it easier to accomplish a big goal.
Thank you for reading this short list of tips. What is your best way to crush procrastination?
8 Productive Tips to Work Faster08 Apr 2013
Being productive is a great advantage. So, today, we will give you some tips on how to work faster and be productive with great results.
Pareto rule says that 80% of your results will come from 20% of what you spend your time on. Now, ask yourself a question: Is what I am doing right now really contributing to the progress for me? And if the answer is “No”, maybe finish what you’ve been doing and then start re-structuring your work life to slowly focus on these 20% that really make a difference. This lets you work faster indirectly by removing tasks that barely contribute to your overall success.
Not all work tasks are of equal importance. When deciding which tasks require your immediate attention, focus on the consequences of not completing the task. Remember that even an urgent task with an extended deadline for completion can sometimes be put on hold while completing a job with an immediate deadline.
If you can outsource some of your tasks that others can do better or you just don’t want to do and are slow getting results, then just do it. ‘Time is money’ is a just a phrase but it is true when it comes to your working power.
4. Avoid Interruptions
Interruptions kill your effectiveness. If you are constantly interrupted and lose focus on what you are doing, you have to adjust your working environment. Think back to your last workday, and consider for a minute the many interruptions that occurred. Try to find simple ways to avoid them.
5. Stop procrastination
We are all guilty of delaying what needs to be done at some time or another. We usually do it to avoid a task that’s unpleasant or daunting. But when procrastinating starts to interfere with performance at work it's time to break the cycle of putting off important tasks.
6. Do instead of think
It can be amazing how much you can do when you stop questioning and just do what needs to be done. Put all your tasks on the board and... Just do it!
7. Daily checkout
At the end of a day find some time to analyze your results. Analyze your work flow and what you have learnt today.
8. Raise Your Own Expectations
Raising your own personal expectations can enable you to accomplish more than you’ve ever thought possible. Set courageous goals and you will achieve outstanding results.
Did we miss something? Share with us what strategies you use to work faster.
Today we have something special for Kanban Tool and Atlassian JIRA® users! We have successfully launched a Google Chrome Extension called Kanbanira. Now you can connect tasks in Kanban Tool with issues in JIRA®. It's a simple but powerful integration allowing you to gain the most benefit from the both tools. All you need to start is visit Kanbanira page on Google Web Store and watch a video on how to integrate Kanban Tool with Atlassian JIRA® using Kanbanira. Then, add Kanbanira to Chrome and enjoy new possibilities.
We have also improved and refreshed the design of Kanban Tool charts. You can easily customize Cumulative Flow by clicking on items in the legend. Take pleasure form operating with nice-looking diagrams and graphs and simplify the workflow analysis by using new features.
That's not all! We have added a „take a screenshot” button to a board „tools” menu. This feature allows you to quickly save and print your entire board. Unfortunately, this option is not available for the users of Internet Explorer 8 (or lower editions).
If you have any suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know in your feedback. All opinions are appreciated.
Kanban Tool On-Site is now available25 Mar 2013
Recently, we have received many requests from you to launch an on-premise version of Kanban Tool. It's finally here! After weeks of hard work, we're happy to announce the release of Kanban Tool On-Site. Now you can deploy Kanban Tool on your own server and keep all important data safe and secure inside your company.
On-premise Kanban boards are the perfect solution especially for large companies and international corporations that deal with sensitive data and cannot use cloud-based solutions. Kanban Tool On-Site can be easily customized to fit business of all types and sizes as well as integrated with your own IT infrastructure and existing systems.
Find our more about on-premise Kanban boards offer by visiting Kanban Tool On-Site page. Contact us to purchase Kanban Tool On-Site or to get more information.
5 Tips for Managing a Remote Team13 Mar 2013
Today, many of us work regularly with colleagues based in different buildings, cities, countries, and even continents. A remote team is a common occurrence. Here are five tips for remote team management to help you manage your team more effectively.
1. Set and share team goals
Working from home is appealing to relatively introverted people. Make sure the employees you hire enjoy working on their own but also thrive on stepping forward. Allow them to actively suggest new ideas, create their own projects, set and share personal goals, and recommend solutions.
The key to ensure the employees work effectively in a remote environment is to help them be self-motivated by providing clearly outlined goals, making them responsible for results, and generating individual accountability plans with a self-monitoring system.
Employees working as team members need to know and understand what they are doing together. If they understand only their own role and their own work, they will always remain just individual contributors. Start with establishing SMARTER objectives for your team:
S- Specific, M- Measurable, A- Achievable, R- Relevant, T- Time bound, E- Engaging and R- Resourced.
Share goals with you team members. Discuss the objectives with your team and allow each member to suggest changes. Require week reports from your team members or use KanbanTool Analytics tool to track the workflow.
2. Focus on results
Let your team members manage their own time. This sends the message that you trust your employees. However, require them to show up on time for important meetings and to be available during the team's general working hours. Provide them with the tools to access their work remotely. Remember, remote employees should focus on accomplishing objectives as quickly and efficiently as possible. Great remote employees finish tasks ahead of time—on and ask for more.
3. Give people shorter assignments
This is not the time to give people long assignments and hope that they are completed by the deadline. Instead of assigning a three-week activity, for instance, assign the work in three one-week activities. Shorter-term due dates and Work In Progress limits help avoid multitasking and improve the workflow.
4. Communicate effectively and frequently
With working remotely, communication becomes even harder to maintain and manage. Regularly check in with members to monitor progress and provide necessary feedback. Keep members apprised of crucial information and decisions. People can start to feel isolated if they do not receive regular communications. It is hard enough to keep everyone informed on a “regular” project.
The communication lines on a virtual team must be opened up especially wide. Schedule a conference or video conference calls often. Send out group emails addressing particular projects. Encourage your team members to use comments on KanbanTool cards to ask question or share ideas with attachments. Be sure to choose the most effective method of communication that fits your remote team’s needs. Discuss other ways to ensure your team members are communicating frequently enough with each other to prevent mistakes, unnecessary progress on cancelled projects, or to announce breaking news and emergencies. If you choose the most effective means of communicating for your team, you will ensure your remote employees are up to speed on all important matters.
5. Create Team Spirit
Remote workers often feel detached from the “mother ship”. The manager must endeavour to create a sense of bond with the team and company. Here are some ways to create the sense of community among team members that they are missing by not being in a co-located office environment: monthly team meetings (teleconferences or video conferences), rotating responsibility for chairing the monthly meetings, celebrating birthdays or outstanding personal and team achievements, allowing employees to use instant messaging to communicate informally, and creating opportunities for team members to collaborate on improvements.
Kanban boards bring continuous improvements in workflow management to many different organizations. They help to successfully conducting all kinds of projects as well as to manage complex processes.
Today we would like to present you an example on how to use KanbanTool for managing an online store sales process.
As you can see on the picture, we divided our board into 3 main columns: “Order received”, “Payment received”. “Order prepared and sent” and 8 subcolumns: “Order checked”, “Order confirmation sent”, “Payment checked”, “Payment confirmation sent”, “Order picking”, “Order dispatched, “Dispatch confirmation sent”, “Feedback form sent”. We also decided to add two swimlanes that will separate orders from our returning customers and new clients. We did it for two reasons. First of all, we wanted to reward returning customers and offer them a special treatment. We will send our loyal customers (along with the order confirmation) a special thanks for continuing purchases in our store as well as a small gift (together with a product dispatch). Secondly, the information about returning customers should be in our data base and we know that some actions can be done faster.
Cards on our Kanban board represent orders. The color of a card helps to identify a category of online store products covered by the order. Icons on a card inform us about the high priority task (red arrow) and about the number of days left to send the dispatch because each order has to be sent up to 14 days after we received an order from a customer. When we point the date in the “Due date” field on card when the dispatch should be send, the icon with the number of days remaining will show up on a card. Attachments help us to keep all documents concerning the particular order in one place.
More advanced users can use Zapier to integrate KanbanTool with Shopify. To learn how to do it, please visit KanbanTool integrations page on Zapier.
Kanban board is a perfect tool for managing online sales. It can significantly improve sales process management by organizing orders from customers into tasks. This way you can see all orders in one central place.
Share with us your story on how you designed your Kanban board and how do you use KanbanTool to achieve better results.
KanbanTool has integrated with Zapier!27 Feb 2013
We’re excited to announce that KanbanTool is now integrated with Zapier. This is the easiest way to sync KanbanTool with other web services you and your team already use on a daily basis.
Zapier hooks KanbanTool up with over 200 applications. There are so many possibilities waiting for you to try them out!
Take a look at some ideas you might like to use:
- - create a new KanbanTool card via: Gmail Email, Google Tasks, Evernote Note, Basecamp Todo, Zendesk Ticket, Wufoo Entry, GitHub Issue or... SMS
- - set new orders in Shopify to create new cards in KanbanTool
- - automatically create new Google Calendar Event from new KanbanTool task.
Just visit the KanbanTool integrations page on Zapier. Select an application you want to sync Kanban Tool with and create your first Zap. Setting this up is easy! Follow instructions from Zapier to get started.
Does it often happen to you that you can't finish your work due to circumstances that are beyond your control? Do you face the lack of information, equipment or decision making power that makes it impossible to move forward? Now you can inform other team members about your problem by simply blocking a card on a Kanban board. Click left mouse button on a card, choose "Block task", describe why you want to block it and confirm the action. You will not be able to move the card until you unlock it.
Secondly, we have improved the search box. Search result for card titles, card types, tags etc. also include tasks located in collapsed columns. If collapsed column contains the task that matches search query, information about it will be displayed in the form of blue box.
Finally, it is very common that people use card "Description" field as a place where they can write down ideas and important information. They copy and paste pieces of text from multiple documents, web sites or emails to keep everything in one place. As a result, a mixture of styles and sizes of text is blended together and information on the card becomes unreadable. To make the text look equal you can select text area and click on "Remove Formatting" button.
If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to improve KanbanTool, please feel free to send us your feedback. It is always appreciated.
Meetings are an important part of the business world. Make them a positive part of your business operations by organizing them well and fast. Start with developing a concise checklist for preparing a meeting and transfer it to a Kanban board. This is how we did it.
First of all, we created a new board using the Basic Kanban Board Template. Secondly, we decided to use swimlanes in order to distinguish areas of actions related to the preparation of the meeting. We named our swimlanes as follows: "Invite people", "Arrange venue", "Arrange catering" and "Run event". To facilitate the distribution of tasks, make it clear and visible for everyone, we assigned team members to swimlanes. However, you can use a different option, and assign tasks directly to people.
Next, we customized the card template. We decided that the only pieces of information we really need to see on the cards are description, due-date and task number (to specify the sequence of actions). Using colors we highlighted key initial tasks (blue) and key final tasks (red). To keep everything in one place and not forget about anything, we added necessary attachments to the cards and created detailed to-do lists.
The best thing about our Kanban board when it comes to meetings is that it is absolutely reusable. We can clone tasks as well as board template. After each meeting we will evaluate our work and try to find ways to improve. Kanban board will help us develop simple routines for preparing successful business meetings.
These days no one can afford to waste time at work. We need to speed up and improve our productivity at work in order to achieve better results, beat the competitors and survive. Productivity experts have come up with many effective ways to accomplish more in less time. However, even the best time management practices will not be able to help you, if you are still wasting time on pointless actions.
There is no doubt emails are a convenient way to communicate. However, sometimes it is much simpler just to have a short face to face or telephone conversation instead of sending back and forth emails. Plan a short meeting to explain the problem and answer all questions.
- Ineffective Multi-Tasking
There’s a limit to how many things you can do at once without taking away from the quality of your work and, ultimately, slowing down the process. Use priorities and set work in progress limits to avoid bad consequences of multi-tasking.
It is estimated that 50% of all time spent in meetings is wasted. What can you do make your meetings more productive? First of all, make sure you really need a meeting: if what you have to say can be easily shared in an email to the group, why get people away from their work? If you definitely need to meet you team, remember that the meeting should have a goal. Put the purpose of the meeting into an agenda and distribute it to attendees before the meeting starts. Finally, choose the meeting moderator who will ensure that the participants remain focused on important problems.
- Non-work related Internet Surfing
Surfing the Internet is a common way to have a quick break from work. It is much better to leave this type of search for your lunch break or the end of the work day.
The awareness of our bad habits can help us improve the productivity at work. Here, we've presented only some of the most common time wasters. Let us know what is your and what you do to combat it.
Top 7 Changes in Kanban Tool09 Jan 2013
We have been working working really hard to provide the best Kanban application for teams and businesses and last year was really busy for us. During that time we have released a bunch of new features and improvements. To help you get to know the best of them, we have created a list of top 7 changes in Kanban Tool in 2012.
- Kanban Boards Redesign
We have changed the look and feel of Kanban Tool. New design has lighter and more delicate colors to let you focus on what is most important.
- File Attachments
You can now easily attach and share images, videos, documents and whatever you want with your team members. File attachments are available on the Unlimited plan only.
- Adding Tasks From Email
This feature is perfect if you use many devices and want to quickly add new tasks to your board.
- Moving Tasks Between Boards
Monitoring large process on single board can be hard. But since Kanban Tool allows you to move tasks between boards you can use as many boards as you need and just move tasks between them. You can also copy and move tasks within one board using the "Move to" option from card dropdown menu.
- Kanban Library
We gathered and carefully selected links to the best Kanban and Scrum resources from leaders, experts and brightest minds in the Kanban sphere. It is definitely the first place to visit if you want to develop knowledge on visual project management, Kanban and Scrum.
- Keyboard Shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts makes working with Kanban Tool even faster. Just hit "N" to create a new task or Ctrl+Enter to save and close opened card. Check out the full list of keyboard shortcuts for even more.
- Column and Swimlane Policies
With column and swimlane policies you do not need to train people before they start working with Kanban board. You can write a column or swimlane policy that describes the rules and how to use it.
We have also made many improvements to make Kanban Tool even better. Boards work much faster and support mobile devices. You can fully customize them with collapsible columns, subcolumns and swimlanes. Each card has a separate URL for easier sharing. You can also get more insight into the process with improved reports and charts on Analytics page.
Kanban Tool was doing also very well in terms of security and reliability. Our uptime for 2012 was 99,98%. Only 2 times during this year our tool was down for longer than 15 minutes. As always, all major updates were made during the weekends only, to let you work without any interruptions.
We want to thank you very, very much for all your love and support. We received tons of emails from you with really valuable feedback and suggestions on how to make Kanban Tool even better. We are really proud to have far the best customers and users in the world! We promise to work even harder in 2013 to provide the very best service possible!
We hope that you share our vision of Kanban Tool and like the changes we have made. As always, feel free to send us your feedback. We really love to hear your comments and suggestions.
You might expect important changes in Kanban Tool in the first and second quarter of 2013.
Subscribe to our blog, not to miss the next big thing!
Kanban Tool Team
New Kanban Board design02 Jan 2013
Since kanbantool.com launch in late 2009, we have been making only small and gradual improvements to the kanban board design. This was good, but over time the technology has advanced and it was a high time to make bigger change to keep our boards pretty and appealing. The update is now live on all accounts, and I hope you will like it as much as we do!
The design update brings a fresh new look to Kanban Boards. They are much lighter and more friendly than before. To keep things simple, we've decided to leave most of the navigation where it was before, making only small modifications.
Starting from the top left, we have replaced the 'Dashboard' text with small home icon which takes you back to the dashboard. Next to it, you will find the current board name. Clicking on it will open the board switcher which you can use to switch between recently used boards.
The main menu was mostly left unchanged. It has following links:
Board link taking you back to your board
Analytics section with Breakdown chart, Lead & Cycle Time, Cumulative Flow Diagrams and Changelog
Archive page listing all archived tasks
Settings page where you can customize your board layout, card types and card template
Exit taking you back to Dashboard.
On the right, you will find links to feedback, tools menu and the searchbox. Tools menu has some goodies inside. From it you can: subscribe to RSS to stay posted about any changes on the board, import or export cards to Excel or CSV, send tasks with due dates to calendars (Outlook / iCal / Google or other) or even generate email address which you can use to add tasks from email. There is also a link to our express Kanban board tutorial. Search box allows you to search for card titles, card types, tags, assignees, task ID and custom fields.
With Kanban Tool, you can now fully focus on getting things done instead of managing your work. As well as the above highlights, we have added a small but useful feature: You can enter numeric values (like revenue, cost, age etc.) in custom fields and generate reports basing on that.
We hope you like our new design!
Please feel free to send us your comments and suggestions. We are happy to receive your feedback.
For those who manage multiple projects, we have added an option to move tasks between boards. To access this feature, open popup menu for card you want to move and choose „Move to” from the list. Then, specify where the card should be moved, choosing target board, workflow stage and swimlane:
After the grace period, support for attachments is now enabled by default for all Unlimited plan subscribers. As a bonus, we have added image attachments preview:
Another feature we have added is the new keyboard shortcut: Ctrl+Shift+F enables you to quickly toggle between normal and full-screen card description view.
And that's not all - we have managed to significantly shorten the board loading time, so even large boards should load fast now.
We hope that all these improvements will positively affect your work. Should you have any questions or suggestions about them, please let us know by sending feedback.
Support for attachments and better tags19 Sep 2012
We have been recently receiving many suggestions about adding support for attachments, and we are proud to announce that this has been now implemented and released as an experimental feature for all Unlimited plan subscribers.
If you are Unlimited plan subscriber, you can enable attachments on board "Settings" > "Card Template Editor" page. With task attachments you can store all relevant information together and easily share it with your team.
We have also made visual improvements to the task tags field. It's auto-completing and much easier to use now.
Maintenance release02 Sep 2012
Today we have released a maintenance update of Kanban Tool. Along with fixing some minor bugs, it has addressed the discrepancy between user and task identifiers as seen on the website and in the API.
Because of this, the task IDs as seen in Excel and CSV export had to be shifted by 20 positions, and you may need to adjust spreadsheet formulas to account for that.
If you encounter any problems with this update or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Today a power issue has affected the datacenter where part of our infrastructure is hosted, making some accounts and our homepage inaccessible for about an hour. This issue should be fully resolved at this time.
If your account was affected we sincerely apologize for the trouble and thank you for your patience and understanding. We work hard to provide the highest uptime possible, and aim for 99.95% service availability.
If you are still experiencing any connectivity issues please contact us with the feedback form or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have received the following Incident Report from datacenter facility:
Subsequent to the utility power failure at our Cedar Knolls facility the generator that powers systems A and D did not start automatically. Manual intervention was required to get generator power running. Unfortunately before the generator was manually engaged customers on these systems experienced a complete power loss. We are still investigating why the generator did not engage automatically. Utility power has been restored, and transfer back to utility was successful.
Over the weekend we have successfully released some new features. Now you can work faster and save your time by using keyboard shortcuts on Kanban Board view.
Try out following shortcuts:
N for adding new tasks
Ctrl + Enter for saving and closing existing task or for creating and closing new tasks
Ctrl + Shift + Enter for saving changes to the existing Kanban card or for creating and adding next new task
Esc for closing card without saving
Ctrl or Shift + arrow (up or down) for navigating between swimlanes
Ctrl + number (from 1 to 9) for navigating between swimlanes, eg. Ctrl + 2 scrolls to the second swimlane
Understanding the meaning of Kanban metrics is a key for analyzing your workflow and improving your performance. To make Kanban charts and diagrams easier to understand we have added short help for each of them with a link to more resources directing to the Kanban Library. Furthermore, you can now mark a column as Backlog/Inventory, In Progress, Waiting or Done to generate even more insightful reports.
Another enhancement is easier way of collapsing columns when you are working with large boards. You can now always collapse or expand column by clicking on it's label. Additionally, you can now move cards to collapsed columns by dragging them over and holding until the column expands.
Finally, we have added description field to workflow stages and swimlanes which you can use to describe the lane policy or just to put some notes in.
If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Recently our web development team has expanded and has speed up the development of new features in Kanban Tool. This week we have released a bunch of new features:
We have released Kanban Tool Support section with collection of answers to frequently asked questions, and other useful information about Kanban Tool. We plan to gradually expand this section with new questions and answers.
You can add new users to Kanban Tool by importing their details from CSV / excel. If you have a CSV file with people you would like to add to your account, you can import them at once instead of adding each person individually.
Another useful feature is a random password generator. If you do not want to think of new password each time you invite people to your account, password generator will help you create strong random passwords.
Last new feature is automatic link detection in Kanban task comments, which makes such links clickable.
We hope you enjoy the latest changes and, as always, feel free to send us feedback.
Over the weekend we have released some new features.
Kanban board switcher allows you to save more time and easily switch between boards:
Extended set of filters for Kanban board analytics gives you more information when working with different sized tasks. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Understanding the basic elements of Kanban is a vital step in boosting your productivity with KanbanTool.
Until now resources on Kanban have been scattered across many websites, and to help you with research, learning and sharing knowledge, we have decided to separate the wheat from the chaff and created a robust collection of links to the best resources from Kanban leaders and experts.
Take a look at the brand new library section to learn from the best.
We also wish to engage everyone in making Kanban Library the best place to look for high-quality Kanban articles, videos and presentations. You are welcome to make your own contribution to the base, suggest interesting materials and share your experience on Kanban.
KanbanTool - Start-up Winner08 May 2012
We are happy to announce that the KanbanTool Team has been awarded by the jury of ”Start-up Boot Camp” The First Price For The Best Start-up With Global Potential. The contest „Start-up Boot Camp” has been organized for a second time by the Polish American Council of Cooperation during the „II New Economy Forum”.
We would like to sincerely thank the organizers and the jury of “Start-up Boot Camp” for the award. In addition, we would like to express our gratitude to all our customers for encouraging the development of the KanbanTool.
New time-saving features are now ready for use! In the latest update we have focused on two cool improvements.
From now on, you can add tasks and comments via email. It is a simple way of managing your work anytime and from anywhere.
Secondly, we have improved analytics. Your are now able to export data from cumulative flow chart to CSV file, download and save it on your computer.
The missing menu12 Mar 2012
Over the weekend we have released an update which adds popup menu to individual cells on Kanban board. This allows you to easily move, archive and sort tasks on boards with multiple swimlanes. To open it, just right-click or ctrl-click on some empty space around your tasks:
We are happy to announce that over the past weekend we have released few tweaks and performance improvements to online Kanban boards:
- The major improvement is in the speed of most common operations. You should see cards opening faster, and the service being even more responsive than before.
- We have also added more fields to the CSV import feature, making it easy to import tasks with multiple attributes in one go.
- Another, quite substantial tweak, is in the user's naming scheme.
Until now, all usernames in the system had to be unique. Since we have over 12.000 users registered, most common names and variations were already taken. We have decided to remove this limitation. Now usernames need to be unique only inside given domain / account. This allows for greater flexibility and allows you to comply with any specific user account naming requirements you may have.
If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
11 New Card Colors27 Feb 2012
Your kanban board can now be even more colorful: we have just added 11 new and fresh card colors. And our Kanban cards are now available in 22 colors! Visualizing your work with Kanban Tool has never been easier. Enjoy.
Custom Kanban Card Fields - New Features 23 Jan 2012
We have just released few, long awaited features.
Now you can customize Kanban cards even further with dropdowns and date picker as custom fields:
What's more, we have added some complementary improvements to "Analytics". You can now view a breakdown chart of custom fields:
Our presentation "Kanban in 4 easy steps" has just reached over 50.000 views, 36 favorites and 260 downloads. It has been awarded a Top Presentation of the Day and featured on SlideShare homepage. A must see.
A gift for Christmas 24 Dec 2011
We have prepared a small Christmas gift for all.
Starting from today you can enforce the use of secure connection (HTTPS)
when working with Kanban Tool. This is an account-level setting
and will have effect for all users.
So if you store some state secrets, like current location of Santa Claus, you can enable this option to make sure all users are connecting with Kanban Tool in the most secure way possible.
All communication is encrypted with 256-bit key length, which is even stronger than the one currently used by Google, and even Santa can't break it to sniff your data.
Have a great Christmas!
Merry Christmas! 23 Dec 2011
We would like to thank you for using our solutions and wish you a joyful, merry and relaxing Christmas time.
API Bindings & Kanban presentation18 Dec 2011
We have also posted a short and (we hope) funny introduction to Kanban on SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/kanbantool/kanban-in-4-easy-steps
And finally, we have updated our API documentation with some examples of how to interact with Kanban Tool API directly from your browser: http://kanbantool.com/about/api#wrappers
API Update11 Dec 2011
We have added some new methods to our API, which will allow you to read recent board activity and interact with Comments and ToDo lists. They are explained on the freshly redesigned API documentation page.
New dashboard UI and updated system architecture11 Oct 2011
Over the weekend we have released a major update to our system architecture. This concludes over a month of work and preparations and creates a solid ground for future development and growth of Kanban Tool. We are now running on a cutting edge platform which provides better support for new browsers, improved performance and allows for ease of future development
Apart from tech changes we have greatly improved dashboard look and feel, which has been re-designed to be more modern, friendly and easy to use. Adding new team members is now also much faster and simpler - you can invite them directly from the sharing page.
Other areas which have been improved include:
- - faster board loading times,
- - new board cloning feature,
- - more distinctive way of moving boards between folders,
- - drag&drop placeholder for tasks,
- - full support for drag&drop on iPad,
- - and many other small tweaks which will make your work more efficient.
We would love to hear what you think about latest changes.
Your feedback is really valuable for us and influences the future development of Kanban Tool.
the Kanban Tool Team
Duplicating tasks and better iPad support14 Aug 2011
By a common request we have added a way to duplicate tasks. Duplication preserves all task attributes including subtasks, and creates an exact copy just below the original task. To try it, click on the new "Duplicate" entry in task context menu:
We have improved the experience for all iPad users. It's really amazing how intuitive dragging tasks with your finger is! We have also fixed few minor bugs with iPad version of Safari.
Another small tweak requested by many users was ability to move the opened card to see what's under it.
Just catch it at the top and drag anywhere you like:
As usual, if you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Toolbar button for Google Chrome10 Jul 2011
We are happy to announce another goodie for Google Chrome users - a toolbar button which lets you add tasks to multiple boards without losing the stream of consciousness. It can be installed from here.
Also, some people reported problems when importing tasks with external IDs. This issue should be fixed now.
We are constantly improving our service to better meet your needs. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
External task IDs26 Jun 2011
By a common request, we have added an external identifier field for tasks. You can enable it on the "Board Settings" > "Card Template" page.
We are constantly improving our service to better meet your needs. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
A bunch of new features and Chrome app12 Jun 2011
We have slightly extended board analytics section so you can now get breakdowns filtered by card type:
CSV import file format is now being remembered between imports. This should be helpful when doing regular imports from the same source.
You can now specify the default task size in the card template editor:
We have added a new API method, listing users and permissions for given board.
And finally, for those who are using Google Chrome, we have prepared a dedicated application which can be installed in your browser and will act as a shortcut to your account:
We are constantly improving our service to better meet your needs. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Full screen task description editor, direct links and notifications15 May 2011
Basing on your feedback we have implemented the full screen editor for task descriptions. You can now easily view and edit long task descriptions. To open it, simply click on the screen icon in the editor:
As you might have noticed, from some time we also support direct task links. Once you open the task view, you can copy the URL and share it with others.
If you want to receive email notifications about tasks which are being assigned to you, you can now opt-in to them in the "My Info" » "Edit my details" section:
We are constantly improving our tool to better meet your needs. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Tasks import and SSL support20 Feb 2011
Basing on your feedback we have implemented the tasks import feature. You can use it to easily add many tasks in one go or import them directly from CSV/Excel file. The link is available in board "tools" menu:
Secure connections using SSL protocol are now also fully supported.
Simply change the http:// to https:// in your browser's address bar to activate it:
We are constantly improving our online kanban boards to better meet your needs. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback. In next release we plan to focus on improvements to the email notifications and our systems architecture.
API and comment notifications13 Feb 2011
1. We are happy to announce first public beta of Kanban Tool API!
You can use it to push and pull information between Kanban Tool and your own applications, allowing to fully integrate it with your existing systems and workflow.
Preliminary API developer documentation is available on kanbantool.com/about/api. The full API will be rolled out in phases, basing on your feedback, with all changes being backward compatible.
For a limited time, the API is open to all users, but eventually any write access will be restricted to paid accounts only. Reading data from API will remain open for all account types.
So generate your unique API key on the "My Info" » "API access" page, and start tinkering :)
2. Email notifications for task comments
We have received a lot of suggestions about adding email notifications support to Kanban Tool.
So we have started with adding notifications for task comments:
and plan to add notifications for other events in short future.
We hope you like the new features. We are constantly improving our online kanban boards to better meet your needs. In next release we plan to focus on the import feature and possibly more notifications.
Read-only access and more sharing options30 Jan 2011
A long awaited feature has been implemented - you can now fine tune kanban board access permissions for individual users:
Kanban Tool is becoming a paid service2 Jan 2011
In recent months Kanban Tool has been growing very rapidly, becoming one of the largest and most commonly recommended online kanban solutions.
We are happy we could keep it free for so long, but in order to keep up with fast pace, we had to make this big decision:
We are excited to announce introduction of paid plans. Money from them will be used to provide even better user experience and to implement new features. They will come back to you with improved efficiency of your work, which we are sure to provide. The plans range from free to enterprise level, and the pricing is really great comparing to other offers on the market. As promised, we are also giving discounts to all existing users who have contributed to making Kanban Tool better.
If you are existing customer, please login to your account as administrator to get more details and upgrade instructions. You need to subscribe to one of the offered plans within 30 days.
Dynamic labels and other Christmas goodies5 Dec 2010
We have released a bunch of cool new features today:
Export to calendar which allows you to view all tasks and due dates in your favorite organizer software
(like Outlook, iCal, KOrganizer, Evolution and many other).
Dynamic floating labels which will help you to navigate across large boards.
Swimlane name, card type and progress in excel export.
New tools menu with export to calendar and subscribe to RSS feed links.
We have also finally fixed the issue with accented letters in excel export and made some other small improvements to make Kanban Tool even more friendly, reliable and easy to use.
New design of public pages29 Nov 2010
The new, updated look and feel of public pages is live. We hope you like it!
Organise your work using swimlanes4 Oct 2010
New release is live! You can now use horizontal swimlanes to organise your work:
As usual, we've also made some other small improvements to make Kanban Tool even more friendly, reliable and easy to use.
Better support for touchscreens (iPhone/iPad/Android), due dates and external links12 Sep 2010
New release is live!
We have improved support for touchscreen devices. When you tap extended context menu will appear:
Another improvement is addition of two card fields - "External link" and "Due date" - which can be enabled on "Settings"-> "Card Template" page.
If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Custom Card Fields30 Aug 2010
Another bunch of new features is live!
You can now customize your cards even further - hide any unneeded fields and define up to five custom ones. Those options are available on board "Settings" -> "Card Template" page:
We have also made some other minor changes:
- archived tasks are no longer counted towards last column's limit,
- improved usability of to-do lists,
- collapsed board columns now display card count and limits.
Cycle and Lead Times22 Aug 2010
Over the past month we have received many inquiries regarding the measurement of cycle time with Kanban Tool. It wasn't easy - you had to use Little's law to deduct it from Cumulative Flow chart.
But it's going to change now as we've added support for cycle/lead time calculations:
To-do lists for tasks9 Aug 2010
Ever missed the detailed to-do lists / subtasks for tasks? You will find them in the latest update!
From now on, you can easily define a to-do checklist for each of your tasks and track its progress:
Workflow templates and custom card types6 Jun 2010
In the latest update we have focused on two long awaited features.
From now on, you can choose from a set of workflow templates when creating new boards. What's more, you can duplicate the structure of any other boards you've created before:
A lot of people wanted to have more card types. Now you can create as many of them as you like! To make this even better, in the next week we will add a bit more card colors to choose from.
We've also made some other minor improvements to make Kanban Tool even more friendly, reliable and easy to use. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback..
Board tour and export to excel24 May 2010
The latest update adds a board tutorial and export to excel feature:
We have also fixed some bugs and did minor tweaks to other areas.
New release makes sharing even easier!8 May 2010
We have received a lot of questions about what are projects for and how to share Kanban Board with other people. Our initial idea was that you should group things by "projects" to which they belong and that you would only want to share "projects" and not the individual Kanban Boards.
This had caused a lot of confusion, so we've decided to simplify things a bit. To that end, we've dropped the notion of "projects" and replaced it with "folders". We hope this sounds more clear as the real purpose of projects was to group things up. What's more, you can now share any dashboard item, including Kanban Boards and Notes.
We've also made some other minor improvements to make Kanban Tool even more friendly, reliable and easy to use. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Cool features in the latest release19 Apr 2010
An improved card view:
More filters for breakdown charts and cumulative flow:
And a new "size" field on kanban cards, which should help you get the most from kanban board analytics in case your tasks require different level of effort to complete.
Latest release - summary of features10 Apr 2010
In the latest release we have added "account" tab in main navigation. It is visible only to account owners and has lots of goodies inside:
- Account settings - view and modify your account settings (including name).
- Usage report - get quick insight into some statistics about your account.
and probably the most exciting feature: CNAME domain alias support!
Now you can access your Kanban Tool account directly from your own domain.
We hope you like the new features. We are constantly improving our free online Kanban tool to better meet your needs. In the next release we plan to focus on extending and improving kanban board analytics.
Latest release - summary of features28 Mar 2010
In the latest release made on Thursday we have added several useful features and improvements.
Below is a short summary of what has changed:
You can prioritize tasks. Each card will be marked with icon to indicate it's status:
You can click on a shortcut icon to get to the card comments tab, or hover mouse over it to see how many comments were made:
- You can track all changes with the detailed board changelog. What's more, you can subscribe to it by RSS and also view each individual task history. You can find it in kanban board Analytics.
- If you like working with Excel / Numbers, you will love the CSV export feature we have added to the archive and changelog pages.
We've also made some other minor improvements to make Kanban Tool even more friendly, reliable and easy to use. If you encounter any problems with the new features or have suggestions how to make Kanban Tool better, please let us know by sending feedback.
Welcome to Kanban Tool blog25 Mar 2010
Welcome to our brand new blog! This is a perfect moment to share some positive statistics we've gathered so far. We are very proud to say that:
- We have received tons of emails with suggestions and feedback
- 94% of our customers ideas have been accepted for implementation
- 72% of ideas and suggestions have already been implemented
- 64% of received emails started from positive words about Kanban Tool.
(Thank you! We really appreciate it.)
- Every 2-3 weeks we try to update our online application to meet your needs.
Kanban Tool aims to be the easiest to use online tool for task and project management, both for team and personal use. We are going to use this blog to share with you the latest news, updates and tutorials. You can also find us on twitter and facebook.