Stephen has worked as a Project Manager and is PMP certified, as well as certified by the Scrum Alliance.
Lindsay has been working as a project manager for more than a decade and has recently moved into a consultant role. One of her main purposes in working with teams is to help them decide the best project management methodology to use. Her current client is a software development company. She believes that an Agile methodology, specifically Kanban, is the best approach for them.
Lindsay first discusses with the team is what falls under the umbrella of project management. Often the teams with whom she works have many responsibilities, which may or may not be project-related. The type of work she intends to help them manage involves a specific, non-routine outcome, the actions or functions that produce it, and the defined timeframe in which this occurs. To help her client understand, she makes the distinction between a website they might create, which would be a project, and the day-to-day functions that involve use of the website, which would not be a project.
Managing the project first involves moving from an idea or concept to defining the work and making a plan. From there, the work is completed, verification that the work is complete occurs, and steps are taken to end the project. The main areas of focus include the scope, the timeframe, and the product. Lindsay's recommendation of Kanban as a methodology is based on these areas.
Before Lindsay details how Kanban handles the scope, timeframe, and product of a project, she gives them a background of Kanban and what it attempts to accomplish. Kanban is an Agile project methodology. Agile is an approach to projects that seeks to offer an alternative to traditional methodologies. Rather than placing an emphasis on document-driven process, it emphasizes interactions between the team and customer and creating a quality product efficiently.
There are several methodologies used to implement Agile. While they each have a shared focus on people and product, Kanban is unique among them in terms of process. Its primary identifier is a continuous flow with limits at various points to identify and remove bottlenecks, as well as maximize the team's efficiency. This maximized efficiency allows the full team to feel utilized throughout the process and leads to a higher quality of product produced in shorter, more frequent intervals.
Once Lindsay helps give her client a background on how she approaches project management and Kanban, she moves into the specifics of how Kanban is used in each aspect of project management. The first area she discusses involves scope.
From Lindsay's perspective, scope is representative of the project work, or the various requirements needed to accomplish the project. Kanban, like many Agile methodologies, breaks project work down to be smaller and more manageable, taking the form of user stories. User stories detail functionality desired for specific users.
In Kanban, user stories are displayed visually for the team on cards and displayed on a Kanban board, which captures work that is available for the team to work on, as well as work that the team has taken on. Visualizing the work, and the scope of the project, is a key component of Kanban, which helps keep the team focus and committed to completing the work in a reasonable amount of time.
The discussion of completing project work is Lindsay's segue into the next thing she considers a key aspect of project management, which is timeframe. In traditional project methodologies, the timeframe is the length of the project. However, in Kanban, the timeframe, like the project work, is broken down.
A continuous flow is used to complete user stories. The flow is marked by points of progress, typically work that is ready to be taken on, work that is in progress, and work that has been completed. These high-level descriptions might be broken into lower-level descriptions of progress, but the concept is consistent. Each user story moves, or flows, through the points of progress. It is continuous in the sense that there are not specific starting or ending points for the flow.
The only disruption that could occur is due to another hallmark of Kanban, which is a WIP, or work in process, limit. The WIP limit specifies a maximum number of user stories that can be in a specific state of progress at one time. If a point later in the flow has reached the maximum number of user stories, work from an earlier point cannot continue to move forward. For example, if the WIP limit for In Progress is five and there are five user stories In Progress, no additional user stories can be taken on until at least one moves forward from in progress.
Lindsay uses WIP limits as a jumping off point for the last aspect of project management on which she intends to focus, which is the product. The purpose of a WIP limit is primarily to ensure that work is completed. Rather than being able to start new work items continuously, there is a point at which nothing more can be started until something is completed. This ensures that a product is created.
Not only does Kanban ensure that a product is created, it also emphasizes the quality of the product. The overall work is completed in smaller portions and shorter intervals, which enables more feedback. The ability for customers to provide feedback at critical stages allows for changes to be incorporated with less friction and creates a higher quality product, which benefits everyone, from the customer to the project team.
Project management focuses primarily on scope, timeframe, and product. Any methodology or approach to projects addresses these three areas, including Kanban, an Agile methodology. Kanban's approach to scope is to break project requirements down into user stories and to display them on a Kanban board. The timeframe is a continuous flow in which user stories are completed, made efficient using a WIP, or work in process, limit for each stage of progress. Not only does the WIP limit ensure efficiency by making sure user stories progress, it improves the product by making sure user stories are completed.
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