While the flow provided by Kanban is something that provides advantage to any process, implementing it in a command and control environment poses challenges due to superiors requiring proof of effectiveness before implementation. Additionally, the concept of flow that can be visualised in a variety of ways can be difficult to grasp for more traditional minds.
Many times the implementation of Kanban starts with small teams and blossoms into broader uses. However, in the situation of the university, small teams are so same-task oriented that the visual flow is not that helpful. The biggest impact are the director level projects and tasks that encompass multiple departments. Directors are spread across different buildings and even states, so the use of an online visualisation is essential, such as LeanKit Kanban, the software being used to implement Kanban for Ohio Christian University.
As the director of online education, my team is spread broadly across the United States (Oregon, Tennessee, Ohio, Arizona). As a result, we do not use Kanban for a specific flow, but have it provide a picture to the entire team for real time status for strategic development, curriculum design, and faculty management levels for the online learning environment.
In these three visual control boards, it’s easy to be horrified because it does not represent the Kanban flow in the sense of the trigger effect impacting other team members. It simply represents that real time picture and flexibility to adjust for the entire team that has no face to face contact, essentially creating three Personal Kanbans that are shared among the team. Conferencing and phone status reports have been cut down, as well as the need for several electronic reports. All the data needed for the one online report is provided within the cards and is very easy to retrieve. The colour coding immediately informs us if it’s an emergency, an improvement that is “nice to have”, curriculum task or non-curriculum task. WIP is not used simply due to the fact that multiple people use each board. For example, the curriculum design representation has a large amount of items being worked on, but we have to remember the context of two instructional designers working on these pieces of curriculum for multiple weeks. This particular visual control represents the “overall picture” of curriculum design.
However, for the designers, there is a great way to make each piece of curriculum flow through the process easily. Reviewers who need to know the status of a course but do not touch the design aspect especially love this as they receive a real time picture of the progress without, again, wasting hours of reports, and minimizing status reports on phone conferencing. With each colour represented a level of status, it quickly turns into it’s own status report as well as flow for the user.
So imagine, you are selling and implementing Kanban to many levels within the university. This turned into it’s own project and as each use is at a different pace, I created a visual control for Kanban implementation. You can see that each implementation is for a completely different type of use. One is for group learning in curriculum, while the second is for collaborating for peers across different departments, and the third is to bring a hierarchy together on the same page faster and more effectively.
This is definitely a big picture perspective with infusing Kanban at different levels and stages into an university setting, with potential for much more use. I look forward to providing more insights into these practices as each one matures.