Visualisation in Board Design

Posted on November 12th, 2011 in Agile, Kanban, Visual Management by siddharta || 4 Comments

Following up on a twitter discussion, Pawel blogged about alternative kanban board designs, and showed an interesting board with columns indicating priority and stickies on a card to indicate the tasks to complete. This motivated me to search for pictures of the board we used back when we first adopted agile process. Pawel says that exposure to “standard kanban boards” has meant that everyone has ended up with similar looking boards. I think to an extent that is true. This board was designed in 2005, much before there was a kanban method, and it doesn’t really look like a kanban board you would see today. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a kanban board as it has no WIP limits or pull. It’s more of a team board visualisation.

Early 2005

This is the board from early 2005.

The board has three sections

  1. Not Started. The cards that are not started are arranged in columns, based on who is planning to pick up that card (although it could eventually be picked by someone else)
  2. In Progress. Cards in progress are arranged in columns, each column containing cards of one team member
  3. Awaiting verification. This column in labeled “Customer”. These are cards that are complete and are awaiting verification. Usually the verification was done by me.

The colour of the card indicated the type: Pink for important work, orange for bugs, yellow for new features and green for enhancements.

A couple of patterns jump out straight away:

First, most of the cards are waiting on the customer. That’s because the customer (me) only verified cards at the end of the release. We did three week releases, so these cards would queue up for three weeks. If any card wasn’t okay, then we would put it back into the Not Started section for the next release.

Second, look at the amount of multitasking for some team members relative to others. Some team members are overloaded for sure.

July 2005

This photograph was taken sometime in July 2005, so its a few months later.

You can see that there are two boards now. The board on the left, directly facing the camera is the roadmap board. This board contains the “big features” that were planned for the next six releases. You can see the release number and date on the top card of each column. The team board on the right has also been redone. Team names have been replaced by photographs, but more significantly you can see that the multitasking is way down. Also the customer column, while still long, is now a lot shorter compared to before as some cards were verified without waiting for the release date. It also helped that we could cards which failed verification back and fix it before the release came.

Visualisation is the important part

Day before yesterday I blogged that visualisation is the key to being agile. You can see that in action here. After putting up the team board, suddenly every team member knew what was going on. This enabled the team to take ownership of the work, leading to better collaboration, and better agility. Nothing rocket science about this. The success of the team board prompted us to create the roadmap board with the next six releases on it.

More patterns

The team board is just one of many kanban board pattern. Pawel’s blog post shows another pattern. At LSSC12 Alisson Vale showed me a board where the team board pattern is embedded within a larger kanban board (You can see that board depicted in our electronic kanban board tool here). Visualisation goes far, far beyond just the basic kanban board.  If you are interested in visualisation, then check the recording of my July webinar on Advanced Kanban Board Patterns.

Also, visualisation isn’t just for a team’s work items. You can see above that the visualisation of the roadmap that we did in 2005. It was rather basic and didn’t visualise everything we wanted. So I was always on the lookout for a better way to go about it. In the last three years, I’ve become a big fan of using story mapping as a way to visualise a project vision, roadmap and progress against that vision. If you’re interested in story maps from a visualisation standpoint, then sign up for my upcoming webinar this month on story mapping.

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4 Responses to “Visualisation in Board Design”

  1. Kanban School Says:

    Love seeing the images from 2005! Great post and it’s interesting to see how things evolve over time.

    Signed up for the webinar too, story mapping sounds very cool!


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