4.75 4

Managing Change Requests Using Lean and Kanban

by Eric Landes

Managing change requests is never the most sought after position in a company. The work is hard and demanding. All the more reason to come up with some great ideas on improving it. When considering Agile solutions for this line of work, Eric Landes decided to go for Kanban.

The situation

Here is his fictional example on how and why this should be done. Eric demonstrates the implementation on an IT department of a large company. In this department, there is a small group of people managing the change requests from end users, managed by Jake. When Jake took over this department, there was a substantial backlog of change requests already (110 tickets). On analysis, he gathered that so far, the delivery rate for those was about two months.

Goals

He was very eager to apply the productivity increasing methods that he read about in David Anderson's books - making the processes lean in order to increase productivity and strive for continuous improvement. His two goals were: making the backlog half the current size and halving the Cycle time.

Getting started

The first step along the way would be getting the team on his side with regards to Kanban implementation. Team's commitment and willingness to participate is crucial. He prepared a simple visual board for the team, showing the process stages and marking in which stage what request had been. It's been placed in the room, where the team works, to ensure full process and status transparency. Jake then needed to explain how the pull system works - instead of a manager assigning tasks to the team, they are meant to pull their work as and when they're ready for them. Because of this, the overall throughput and quality of work shall be improved.

Initial extra help

To get a better start, the team was initially aided in clearing the current backlog by some extra developers. But all new change requests were added to the board respectfully of the new system.

Stand-ups and kaizen

The team agreed on holding daily 15-minute long meetings, during which current process status was discussed. Also, once a week, they held a review meeting involving stakeholders and product owners, allowing them to update and properly prioritize their work on change features. Thanks to reviews and the re-prioritization effort, the team believed that a continuous improvement will be possible.

Result

Jake managed to achieve almost exactly what he had planned - a decrease of the backlog by 40% and a 40% shorter Cycle Time - within the first month. Also, by holding reviews, the team managed to further improve their productivity by eliminating the change requests that were no longer needed.


Read our article on Kanban for project management »
Read more online »