Multi-tier Kanban

Posted on January 14th, 2011 in Kanban, Lean by siddharta || 8 Comments

[Fabrice has kindly translated this post into French – Kanban multi-niveaux]

One of the challenges with enterprise kanban is to link stakeholder needs with development team needs.

  • Stakeholders think in terms of large pieces of functionality (Lets call them Epics), whereas the development team requires small fine grained stories.
  • Stakeholders are interested in the end to end lead time of the epic, whereas the team kanban board only measures the lead time of a single story

The solution to this is multi-tier kanban.

User Story Maps

User story mapping is a visual mapping technique to generate a shared understanding of a product or initiative.

We start with the Epic that stakeholders are interested in. Each epic can be decomposed into a set of Minimally Marketable Features (MMF) that collectively satisfy the Epic. Each of these MMFs, in turn, can be broken down into small, fine grained user stories. This requirement hierarchy is visually depicted below:

Enterprise Kanban Board

Next, we create an enterprise Kanban board. This board is used to visualize the flow of Epics from the initial idea upto completion. Each column on the board depicts one stage of the Epic workflow. It is important here to ensure that this board contains the whole end to end workflow. When an Epic reaches the “Development” stage of the enterprise kanban board, the associated stories from the user story map are transferred to the team’s kanban board. Here, the user stories flow through the team’s development process and is tracked  on the team kanban board. Once development is complete, the Epic is moved from the development stage onto the downstream activities.

The diagram shows the process in action. Yellow Epic cards flow on the enterprise kanban board. When they reach development, the associated blue story cards flow through the team process. The beauty of it is that the team need not necessarily be doing Kanban. The same technique can be used even when the team is doing Scrum, XP or some other software development process.

Using user story maps and two levels of kanban allows us to scale Kanban to the enterprise view and gives stakeholders visibility into the flow of epics.

Webinar on Leveraging Enterprise Kanban

I’ll be expanding on these ideas in a free, one hour webinar on Leveraging Enterprise Kanban. The webinar will happen on the 19th of January, 9:30 PM IST (see time in other timezones). Sign up for the webinar to join the discussion.

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8 Responses to “Multi-tier Kanban”

  1. toolsforagile Says:

    Multi-tier Kanban – http://toolsforagile.com/blog/archives/5… #kanban #businessagility

  2. Fabrice Aimetti Says:

    Hello Siddharta,
    Your post is very interesting and I’ve translated it into french : http://www.fabrice-aimetti.fr/dotclear/index.php?post/2011/01/14/Kanban-multi-niveaux
    Regards,
    Fabrice

  3. siddharta Says:

    Thanks Fabrice, I’ve linked to your post above.

  4. Matthias Bohlen Says:

    Hello,
    nice pictures, easy to understand, good blog post!

    One question, though: Those people in the process who create items in state “ready for dev” are usually the same who will be responsible for acceptance testing later on, right? So, wouldn’t it make sense to feed the blue or red items back to them? Or do you re-assemble stories into features, then features into epics before you go into acceptance test? The latter method would create a very slow feedback loop.

    Maybe, you can update the pictures and put the acceptance test in – this would be enlightening.

    Cheers,
    Matthias

  5. siddharta Says:

    Hi Mathias,

    For us, the acceptance tests are defined on the blue user stories, so both defining the acceptance test, as well as performing the acceptance test are steps on the Development Team Kanban Board.

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