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Bringing Kanban into Marketing

by Frank Schlesinger

Here is a great use case of Kanban applied to a marketing team, brought in specifically to improve process transparency. The specific team (internal and external educational event organizing group) was known for doing a great job, but they agreed on a significant lack of transparency, causing to miss them seeing the "big picture". The consensus, that they all wanted better process visibility, was a great place to start and a good incentive that it will work out.

Frank, the author of this idea, has quickly gotten to work, preparing a 90-minute Kanban introduction for the - as of yet - completely non-Agile team, getting the supervisor's approval and beginning to create a Kanban board.

Together with the team, they created a Kanban system from scratch:

  • Decided on item types - initially two (online and offline events), but they quickly found that this made no difference, so they stayed with simply an "event"
  • Set out their workflow - it was going to be organized as: inbox (new events arrival), briefing (short meeting with the stakeholders), preparation (where the real work gets done in three sub-columns: to do, doing, done), running and done (with debriefing and feedback for some events)
  • Created the Kanban board on the team's lockers (one locker = one column)

The plan was to go through setting up policies and setting a WIP limit too, but once they saw all the ongoing events on the Kanban board, this gave them exactly what they needed (full transparency), so they had stopped there for then.

After just a couple of days, the team found that they needed to add swimlanes for tasks unrelated to any event and for other kinds of items too. Their board will need to grow, Frank also finds that there is room for improving the team's delivery time, although performing this may prove tricky, since the events they organize have deadlines, about which not much can be done. Something to work out, then.

The result of this experiment though was, that no matter what your line of work is precisely, Kanban offers great ways of making improvements, one step at a time. This team only utilized the workflow visualization. With the addition of WIP limits and holding review meetings, they could definitely improve even more.


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