Introducing The Arrow Kanban Board

| by Savita Pahuja on Jul 05, 2015. Estimated reading time: 3 minutes |

Tomas Rybing, Director of project management at Aptilo Networks, in his latest blog shared the concept of a customized kanban board named ‘Arrow’. The Arrow is based on the priority pyramids approach. Arrow is a visualization of the backlog combined with the kanban board that visualizes the work process.

Tomas added rotated priority pyramid as the entry point of the kanban board with multiple swim lanes. The example board above has 3 swim lanes. Swim lanes are used to limit WIP (work in process).

How may swim lanes shall you have? It depends on the size of the team and how much flow efficiency you want to have. One swim lane will give the highest flow efficiency, and then the team will be working on one story at a time. This may not be practical in reality; various team members will be idle at different times. One word of advice is to have fewer swim lanes than you have team members to encourage collaboration.

Tomas added a written DoD (Definition of Done) with the criteria that needs to be fulfilled before a task can move into the next column. See it as a check list, that needs to be done before moving the task. Using this approach will prevent tasks from moving further down in the process without being ready for it.

Tomas also changed the Done column in the form of an arrow.

Normally the stickies are removed from the “Done” column when it gets crowed (the same thing goes for Scrum, where the board is ”cleaned” before each sprint starts). But why don’t make the point of the arrow to a larger area that can hold more stickies so that we can see our achievements over a longer time period! Then you can count the number of stickies in the ”Done” column and connect them to certain events. For example ”when we have reached 50 stickies in Done we celebrate with a cake” (cake limit). For every twenty stickies in the Done column (20, 40, 60, etc.) perform a retrospective, and so on.

In front of the arrow a printout of the overall goals for the team are present. The goals shall be written in a way so that they can guide in the daily work.

Tomas explained the flow of the stories in the arrow kanban board in his presentation on SlideShare.

Tomas shared the learnings from the arrow kanban board as:

  • We didn’t put any rules on the fast line, and no surprise, much of the work ended up here when we started. Uncertainty was shown if work was ”important enough” to take up an ordinary swim lane, therefore it ended up in the fast lane since it had no other place to go. By setting rules on the fast lane, and having criteria how to use the ordinary swim lanes, this can be avoided.
  • Since the swim lanes now makes it more restricted when new work can be started (i.e., only when a swim lane becomes available), team members become more blocked. We have started to experiment with a ”slow lane” for lower prioritized work that can easily be picked up (and left), when a team member is temporarily blocked on their main task.
  • As a separate section of the point of the arrow we have a section ”ready to demo” where tasks end up that we show on a weekly demo session. If no tasks are present here, the demo is canceled for that week.

David J. Anderson, CEO of David J. Anderson & Associates, Author, Kanban Trainer & Consultant. commented on the idea of the arrow kanban board as:

The priority triangle is a nice idea for lower maturity organizations that lack discipline and need physical space to enforce a WIP limit.

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