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Kanban Board Is Managed By Whom And How?

Kanban Board Is Managed By Whom?

The best practice would be that each Kanban board is managed by a team who is using it. This way you have the whole team collaborating on getting things done and they are self-managing and self-organizing. If there is one team member who is managing the board or, God forbid, a manager is managing the board, there is probably an anti-pattern in place. The same goes if the Kanban board is managed by no one. So, let’s see what possibilities there are.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Team Thinking - Prodgoal

1. Kanban Board Managed By A Team Using It

When it comes down to giving the ’’best’’ answer when someone asks you ’’Who should manage the Kanban board?’’ - This option is almost always the best one. If the team members using the Kanban board are the same people who are managing it, that means a lot of good things.

It means that the team is, first of all, engaged in their work. That also means that the team’s board is up to date and people can understand what is happening by just glancing at the board. This means that they have a lot of opportunities to cooperate since they can call out problems on the board or celebrate success together.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Team Success - Prodgoal

It also means that very little time is spent on searching for information, but people can focus on working on the most important tasks and getting things done. All this and much more enables the team to be self-managing and self-organizing. And in all other cases, this is being blocked by someone or something.

This is not only the preferred state but also the state that you need to move to if you want to be successful and recognize yourself in some of the other states.

2. Kanban Board Managed By A Team Lead

It’s quite typical that you see a Team lead managing the team’s board. This mostly happens from the good intention of helping the team. People think that if you leave the team members fully focused on their work items, without them caring much for ’’moving the cards on the board’’ or even looking at the board, that will help them be more productive and engaged. The opposite is true.

If you do this, then team members will miss out on a ton of opportunities to collaborate, to see the situation for themselves, and also for them to be engaged and motivated in achieving the most value. When people don’t look at the board, they stop caring much about what is happening, they just focus on their work, but this leads to a more individualistic approach, and no teamwork.

Without teamwork, you cannot expect people to reap these benefits, so what happens in time is that the team lead is taking more and more work onto himself or herself and the team just keeps delegating more work to the lead. People in the team feel that someone else is taking their part of the work, so they start removing more ’’boring work’’. And the team lead is just piling up this work, creating a team that is not self-driven anymore and the team lead can’t even finish all tasks that are in his or her domain.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Team Lead - Prodgoal

This way, we see at least two downsides of this approach. Teams get less and less independent, and the team lead spends more and more time managing, instead of leading. It is also very common that the team starts to look at the team lead as their boss and they start to have a more reserved stance. It’s not uncommon to even see various unpleasantries that come from this.

Sometimes, team leads don’t see this and just perceive that they are doing too much work. They become dissatisfied with their work and may even leave the company, figuring out after a while that they were doing things wrong, not the others.

In short, you can have a team lead manage the Kanban board, but it will probably just create various antipatterns as time goes by. If you are already in this situation, try to reflect on what state exactly you are in and what can you do about it. Then, start acting. Don’t let yourself be kept in this antipattern.

3. Kanban Board Managed By A Scrum Master

One of the main goals of the Scrum master is to make the team self-organizing and self-managing, but there are still a lot of cases out there where a Scrum master manages the Kanban board. This is mostly an antipattern that comes from a misunderstanding of the Scrum master role and its servant-leader side.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Scrum Master Or Agile Coach - Prodgoal

If you are a Scrum master managing the team’s board, this is quite the opposite of your main goal, which is creating self-managing and self-organizing teams. This antipattern is quite similar to the antipatterns of the team lead in the previous section so I won’t repeat them. Let’s see what else is there.

If the team is new to the Kanban board, it’s quite normal to help them out and show them how it should be used. Even if the team is not new, you as a Scrum master know what visualization techniques they could employ to their benefit, or if they should focus more on a blind spot, feel free to do that. But only in the beginning.

You do need to teach teams how to do things properly and teaching by example is a very powerful technique, but you need to move away from it as soon as possible. Teams need space to try things on their own and get results on their own or even fail. Failing is not bad for them, since this is how they can see that some of the things they are not using are not giving them results. And from this experience, they will get back on the right path.

It’s also normal in the beginning to remind people daily of what they should do, but you need to evolve from this state. Try to move to a more coaching stance, explaining to them that they need to own the results and that you can’t do that in their stead. Coach them, create some distance and when they are ready, move even further and just advise them.

You won’t even notice, but at some point, you will just realize that you have created the right environment for a self-managing, self-organizing team. And you will all be happy! Just keep in mind that this takes time, in my experience from 6 months to 2 years.

4. Kanban Board Managed By A Manager

When a Kanban board is managed by a manager, the main question is - who’s Kanban board is she or he managing? If one of the managers is managing the management team’s Kanban board (what a sentence! - now say it fast, twice), that is the same antipattern as we mentioned in the examples with the team lead and the Scrum master. If it’s some other team’s board that is being managed, that is not even an antipattern but a red flag with ‘micromanagement’ written all over it.

As you can see, the patterns are the same, but only on different levels. Even with management, they should only manage their board and do it together as a team to have alignment and be in sync.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Management and Leadership Team - Prodgoal

The biggest difference is that the management will be managing the strategy level board (Flight level 3), trying to get everyone aligned and focused. And also checking how good or bad the company is doing on their goals while steering from that level.

Management could also be included in managing the coordination board (Flight level 2), depending on the level and the concrete role of the manager. But then again, they would have to be a part of a team who is working on coordination and be included in the managing part only if they were a part of the team. Otherwise, there is a great risk of micromanaging.

What they definitely won’t be managing are the operational boards of the teams (Flight level 1), because of the things said previously. Whenever someone that is not a part of the group starts managing an external group, there is probably some sort of micromanagement.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Flight Levels - Prodgoal

Much better results can be achieved if people external to the group are working on alignment, leading, communication, and supporting the teams. The team can then focus on the clear goals that they are given and be self-managed, which is far more sustainable, and also scalable, and motivating.

With all this being said, if you are a manager, ask yourself ’’This Kanban board is managed by whom?’’ and check if you are on the right path. If not, don’t worry too much, just get back on the right track and continue.

5. Kanban Board Managed By No One

We talked about various patterns and antipatterns in managing the Kanban board, but the biggest antipattern is left for the end. And you already know what that is - when no one is managing the Kanban board. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a physical or an online board.

When trying to give a proper answer to the question of who is managing the Kanban board, it’s only natural that no one managing it would be the worst-case scenario because of all the things that depend on that.

If you are not managing the Kanban board, that means you are not updating it. And if you are not updating it, that means no one in your team knows what is the real state of the board. And if no one knows what is the real state of the board, they either won’t know what is happening, or they will even have the wrong picture, which is worse.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Questions - Prodgoal

If people have the wrong picture in their minds and try to act upon it, there will be only confusion and more work instead of less work, and even more communication instead of just glancing at the board and understanding everything you need. Also, various decisions can be made based on the state of the board and those can have mild or serious consequences. But why should you take that risk?

Imagine if someone from the other teams looks at your board or if one of the managers walks by and sees an alarming picture. What good will that bring to any of you?

All in all, if no one is managing the board, and people don’t see the value in using a Kanban board, even after knowing all about why you should use the Kanban board and what are the benefits that it can bring, I would suggest that you are better off not using the board at all, instead of kind of using it but not managing it.

On the other hand, I would still say that the benefits of using the Kanban board are just too big to be left to the competition, so if you are not using it, try to figure out why that is and try to get the best out of it. It pays off dearly.

Now that we’ve covered the main question ’’Kanban board is managed by whom?’’, let’s get to some practical examples and let’s see how to best manage a Kanban board.

How To Best Manage A Kanban Board?

In my experience, managing the board right can make or break the whole endeavor. So, it’s very important that you do it right. Here are the top things you should strive for:

1. Keep The Board Up To Date

As it was emphasized above, it’s super important that you keep the board up to date since everything else and everyone else relies on that.

If you are keeping the board up to date, you will work and make decisions based on good and reliable data, and you will be able to make really good calls in time. And you will spend less time on unnecessary meetings and communication. Not to mention all the possible useful interactions that can occur from moving the cards on the board.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Board Up To Date - Prodgoal

And whenever you are not keeping the board up to date, you give out wrong information to everyone, as these boards are real ’’information radiators’’. This can just cause miscommunication, confusion, bad decisions, and even quarrels. Also, when the board is not up to date for some time, then the ’’broken window’’ behavior starts to occur which causes an overall drop in motivation in the team.

In brief, keep the board up to date and you will reap a ton of benefits out of it.

2. Gather Around The Board At Least Daily

If you want to manage the Kanban board properly, you need to do it together, at least once a day. Gather around the board and walk through it, from the right side to the left side, checking what you can get done first and how. And also from the top to bottom in each column, check what are the most valuable items that you can deliver today and devise a strategy on how to do that.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Cross-Functional Team - Prodgoal

This short activity can exponentially raise your productivity as well as your impact, so don’t skip it!

3. Pay Attention To Work In Progress Limits

Throughout my work, I have come to see that the biggest levers for boosting delivery work in progress limits. The lower the limit is, the greater the productivity is. Of course, there is also the point of diminishing returns, but often it’s a long way until you get there.

Feel free to experiment with limiting your work in progress; this will probably be the most impactful experiment you have done. Keep in mind that this is an experiment that takes quite some time because it starts to change the whole culture of the team, but for the better. Thank me later.

4. Track Days In Progress

We cannot truly know the value if we don’t know the cost. If you are tracking how many days an item is in progress, this can help you tremendously in making the right decisions.

If the item is being done fast, that’s awesome - celebrate! But if an item is taking too long, you will instantly see it and you can decide on what to do with it. You can swarm on it, slice a part of it, throw it away, or just continue working on it as is if that’s ok, but with a clear picture of how long it is taking you to do it.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Days In Progress - Prodgoal

Seeing the price tag or the number of days that the item is being worked on can skillfully change your thinking, so keep track of it.

5. Focus On Removing Blockers

If you have worked with a Scrum master or an Agile coach, you know that they are probably trying to get you to focus on resolving impediments and blockers as soon as possible. Well, they are right. This will make a tremendous difference in your delivery.

Whenever you are aiming for predictable, stable, and sustainable delivery and a team that is in a great mood, you should check for blockers and impediments daily and try to remove them ASAP. Try doing this for a couple of weeks and measure the impact. You will be quite surprised. Positively, of course.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool in ProdGoal - Example for Blocked items

If you want to try this out but you are wondering is Kanban board free to use, you are in the right place. ProdGoal offers a free online Kanban board tool with unlimited users, unlimited projects and you can cancel anytime. Feel free to give it a go.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool in ProdGoal - Simple Example