Week 4: Begin Using Kanban for the Workflow

Time required: 1 hour

Over the last three weeks you've built up all the tools necessary for implementing Kanban in your workflow. This is the big week when you actually begin using Kanban!

Hold a team meeting to explain the Kanban workflow and roles.

Select available tickets from the right-most column first, then from columns moving left. Backlog tickets are not available for starting.

The technicians' workflow in Kanban is as follows:

  1. Find a ticket to work.
    1. Start from the columns on the right side of the board- the ones closest to being complete. If there are no available tickets in a column, move to the lef, column by column, until an available ticket is found. Some statuses have special considerations:
      1. Scheduled: Tickets in this status cannot be worked until some time in the future. To see when a ticket is scheduled, hover over any member assignment image that has a blue outline.
      2. Blocked: These cards should be reviewed regularly to see if whatever is blocking the ticket has been resolved- for example, if a customer has replied to a request for further information, or if a repair part has been received.
      3. Ready: The position of cards in this column has been set by the SRM, so select the top card. Alternativily, you might decide on a policy that allows the second or third card to be selected by a technician who is not at all familiar with the technology, company, or project of the top card. Only take a card from this column if you're sure no started cards can be worked.
      4. Backlog: These cards are not ready to be started. Consider not showing this column on the Kanban board used by technicians. You can make a second Kanban board that does have this column, for use by the SRM.
    2. Prefer your own assigned tickets. If you have no assigned tickets in a column, but there are unassigned tickets, choose an unassigned ticket. If you know a ticket is ready to be worked but the assigned technician isn't actively working on it, then ask him or her if you can take over.
    3. Ideally, any technician can take any ticket. However, in the real world, there can be limitations due to a technician's limited experience on a certain topic or his or her relationship with a customer or knowledge of a project. Keep in mind that having only one or a few technicians that can work certain tickets leads to bottlenecks and reduced ticket flow. It's a good long-term plan to train all technicians on all technologies, clients, and projects that can appear on a board.
    4. The ordering of tickets is meaningful in some columns. In particular, tickets in the Ready column have been ordered by the SRM such that the most important tickets are at the top.
  2. Assign yourself to the ticket.
  3. Begin working the ticket.
    1. Continue to follow your organization's normal practices for completing tickets. Track your time. Email the client from the ticket. Enter notes. Apply configurations.
    2. If you are interrupted from a ticket, leave the ticket in the in progress status. Just because you stopped working the ticket and started working on something else doesn't mean the ticket is blocked. If you are unable to begin working the ticket again in a reasonable amount of time, unassign yourself and bring the ticket to the team's attention.
  4. Finish the ticket and set it to completed. If you can't finish it, complete as much as you can and then update the ticket status. Notice the ticket moves closer to the left side of the board, indicating it's farther from completion. If the ticket becomes blocked or scheduled, or if there's not enough detail in the description to complete it, take a moment to consider and discuss with the team what could have been done better.
  5. GOTO 1.

This workflow is intended as a guide with helpful specifics, not as a strict algorithm that never has exceptions. There will be problems and unforeseen issues you need to address. Future weeks of this program will help you deal with common issues such as how to deal with emergency work that can't wait for the normal workflow.

Document your Kanban flow in the same place you document other organization processes. (You do document these things, right?) The document is useful for training new members and referring to when you've forgotten how the process works.

Keep these principles in mind:

  • It's better to finish work than to start it!
  • In the ready column, avoid assigning tickets to members. Assigned tickets in the ready column lead to bottlenecks and reduced flow.
  • Small tickets move from ready to in progress to complete much faster than big tickets. If it's not possible to complete a ticket in a single sitting, it should be split up into multiple tickets, one for each series of tasks which can be completed in a single sitting.

Considering the BTR process as an example, there should already be a number of BTR tickets in a variety of statuses. For example, for a single upcoming BTR, the scheduling ticket could be blocked on getting an email response from the customer, the planning ticket might be in progress, and the perform and follow-up tickets could be in the backlog status because they are not yet ready to begin. Technicians should begin using the Kanban method to select and work these tickets, while the SRM and SDM continue their work started last week.

Next up: Week 5

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