With the development of the Internet industry and the current speed of market and business changes, the requirements for business agility are getting higher and higher. With the gradual practice and promotion of agile development methods, the product development capabilities of Internet companies are gradually improving.
How to guide the team from product development to focus on the rapid delivery of business value is the direction that needs to be practiced in Internet companies in the future. By limiting the number of work-in-progress and measuring the value flow, the team needs to focus on the speed of the value flow to achieve a rapid business response. It is the goal that many companies hope to achieve in the next step. Jiang Lifen, an agile senior coach of the Baidu Engineering Efficiency Department, said when talking about the future development of the Kanban method, "Kanban method will be a very important method to support business agility requirements in the Internet era in the next few years."
In the interview, Jiang Lifen shared her understanding of the core idea of Kanban:
"We form a pull system by limiting the quantity of WIP to expose system problems and bottlenecks, and we measure value flow to discover opportunities for improvement; and through team collaboration, we continuously improve and evolve appropriate processes and methods to achieve efficient and smooth product development value flow, and ultimately achieve the agility of the organization's business."
Kanban Brings Four Types of Change
We should understand the Kanban method and practice it in our organization. Jiang Lifen believes introducing the Kanban method can change many aspects.
The first is the impact of the Kanban change on people. Many teams are still unable to pay attention to the flow of value and are still paying more attention to and responding to a specific matter. They will take on a lot of things, process a lot of work in parallel, and lack a sense of purpose; the introduction of the Kanban method can enable us to have a reasonable understanding and awareness of what we do, establish a perspective of value delivery, which will be of great help to organizations to achieve rapid business delivery.
The second is the impact of the Kanban change on management. Everyone's organization has certain management rules and mechanisms, and each technical team has its management methods, but everyone understands these rules differently. We can visualize these management rules and constraints through the Kanban method and let everyone in the team know and understand the rules' meaning, which will positively impact the efficiency of management and pull everyone in the team to collaborate and cooperate actively.
The third is the impact of Kanban changes on the process. Although everyone understands that processes serve the business, sometimes the definition of a process deviates from this direction. Therefore, we use the Kanban method to visualize the value flow and expose process problems and bottlenecks through the Kanban and WIP pull systems. Then we measure the Lead Time to effectively identify and discover improvement opportunities, which will make the process more and more in line with the needs of the business and play the role of the process to achieve rapid business delivery.
The last is the impact of the Kanban change on the business side. When people, management, and processes in an organization focus on delivering business value, the entire organization's goals will be unified, and the collaboration efficiency between teams and departments will naturally be effectively improved. In this case, it is not just a system created by a team. Still, the entire organizational system operates under the condition of business agility oriented, and the impact and promotion of business will naturally occur.
Jiang Lifen's current team they have been gradually trying to introduce various aspects of the Kanban method practice:
We use physical walls to separate work items in the team, including Business Stories, Technical Optimization, Online Questions, and Technical Research with different colors; We display the entire process stage of the value process from the beginning of input to the launch.
We also visualize the problems and obstacles encountered by the work items in the Kanban board; the flow rules of the process stage are displayed in the Kanban board, such as the rules that are transferred to the test after the development is completed. The rules can be online after the test is completed.
"We also try to record the start and end times on the card, and also use the LeadTime that the system records the flow of value in parallel, calculate and observe the distribution of LeadTime, find outliers, analyze the reasons, and gradually optimize and improve the flow of value to improve the predictability of the process." Jiang Lifen said.
Jiang Lifen said that by introducing these practices, the team could spontaneously discover problems in the process, which can pull the team to optimize and improve the process of self-organization. At the same time, it can also guide the team to focus on the common value output of the team instead of just focusing on whether they have completed their work. The team's self-organization ability and assistance ability will be significantly improved.
Difficulties for Technical Teams to Practice Kanban Method
Although the Kanban method is suitable for any product development project, we need to select a team with a suitable scenario when organizing the pilot Kanban method at the beginning. For example, the current problems encountered by the team have a good match with the core ideas and practices of the Kanban method. We are still having some difficulty with this.
We introduce the Kanban method in teams that have already implemented Scrum. How to make the team understand the difference between the Kanban method and Scrum is a difficult point, and how to introduce the Kanban method in a team with mature Scrum implementation can bring more in-depth improvement benefits to the team, which is also more difficult.
The Kanban method emphasizes starting from the status quo. In the beginning, it is a challenge for us to visualize the status quo of the current team development process.
The demand for products varies from big to small. Most teams are used to estimating the workload to determine how much work requirements to be done within the release cycle frequency rather than the number of requirements, so it is difficult for the team to use WIP to limit the number of WIPs; In addition, the Kanban method focuses on value flow. It stimulates teamwork to improve process efficiency by identifying bottlenecks and improvement opportunities. However, it also requires relatively balanced capabilities for each team member and can solve problems encountered by the team at any time. Sometimes the development direction of each ability in the team will be different, and it will also be a challenge to achieve a better balance with management.
Jiang Lifen also shared her suggestions and reminders to others who want deep contact and learn the Kanban method. "To learn Kanban methods, you first need to understand the background and history of Kanban methods, understand the original use scenarios of Kanban methods, the problems you hoped to solve and the goals you wanted to achieve at that time, and understand why Kanban methods can work in that scenario," she said.
It is very necessary for classmates who want to have in-depth contact with and learn Kanban, familiarize themselves with the book Kanban Method and participate in the training courses on the Kanban method; it would be better if they could see or hear some cases of Kanban practice on the spot. " If you want to introduce the Kanban method to your organization and team, it is recommended that you clearly understand the environment of the organization and team in advance, including the organization's culture, management mechanism, product characteristics, etc. After a clear understanding of these environments, you also need to Clearly define what goals you want to achieve through the Kanban method, what problems you want to solve, what impact and promotion you want to bring to the team, etc., and then choose a team for pilot practice. "Jiang Lifen suggested.