Tuesday, 14 November 2017 20:14

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Written by Ann Brown, SPHR, Assistant Vice President Organizational Development

Ann Brown, SPHR, Assistant Vice President Organizational Development, is a dynamic and diversified Human Capital leader dedicated to accelerating business programs on strategic initiatives and developing others. She can be reached at ann.brownsphr@gmail.com.

Have you ever wondered how you can help make work more transparent in your organization, quickly share information and reduce the feedback loop? Well, look no further than Kanban, a Japanese word meaning signboard or billboard. Kanban is a visual work management method that:

  • Stresses pulling individual work items to completion
  • Focuses on just in time delivery of work
  • Team members get what they need when they need it, no sooner (Lean)
  • Limit work in progress (WIP)

How many of you have written a to-do list? Added items you started on and still had a few more steps to take before you could call it done? Then, checked off those items when they were completed or “done”? Congrats my friend, you just completed a personal Kanban in its simplest form.

Kanban can work in teams as well. A few years ago the Organizational Development Department that I lead was faced with overhauling the curriculum, aligning to changing business needs, supporting change management, etc. We had to find a way to get our work in plain sight, collaborate with various departments early, and quickly spot bottlenecks and eliminate waste.

I noticed that our technology department started using white boards, tape, and post-it notes. They would huddle in the morning, move the post-it notes around and come back the next day with updates. I asked to join their meetings and I saw how the team knew what the work was, freely talked about what was needed to accomplish the task, focused on a limited amount of work in progress, asked for help, and reduced the feedback loop. While at their huddle, I learned information about projects both of our departments had in common and I was able to quickly update my team.  I also learned that the technology department had insights into changes early.

Then it happened, I realized Kanban could be used in Organizational Development as well. We have similar goals as the technology department – visualize our work and workflow, limit the amount of work in progress, read visual indicators of progress, and spot bottlenecks and eliminate waste.

From there, I started researching Kanban to learn more and worked with my team to brainstorm ways we could leverage this tool. After a series of meetings, we developed rules around the Kanban board, brain dumped all of our work in progress, assigned colored post-it notes, and started hanging the work in plan sight on the Kanban board.

How could using a Kanban board change the way your work moves in your department and across your organization? What are some challenges a team could face when getting started with Kanban?

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