At Mindsense, we adhere to the Kanban process management and improvement method. We’ve found that managing knowledgework can be difficult without a specific method for visualizing our progress and improving our process. Kanban solves those issues.
With Kanban, we have a few major focus points:
- The workflow of knowledge work is inherently invisible. Visualizing the flow of work and making it visible is core to understanding how work proceeds. Therefore, we visualize our progress with our in-office Kanban board.
- There is value not in starting things, but in finishing them. Therefore, we limit the amount of work that can be ‘in progress’ at one time.
- Our process is explicit. By explicitly documenting our process, we can adhere to it better, and modify it more objectively.
- Monitor process. We collaboratively manage flow, monitor data points on our progress, determine process improvements, and implement them incrementally.
Kanban board — Our physical Kanban board is on the wall in our “War Room”. Each row on the board is a story, and team members move their tasks move through the columns as they make progress on them. There are limits on how many tasks can be in progress at once, to help us understand and use the value of seeing tasks all the way through to completion, instead of just starting a bunch of different things.
Retrospective — At the end of each week, we conduct a retrospective where we reflect on the past sprint and identify any improvements that could be made to our process for the next sprint.
We use the agile method Scrum. As a result of our Kanban process improvement methodology, our application of Scrum has a few slight variations. We’ve found that we can remain lean and responsive to both the market and our customers by using Scrum. It forces us to have deliverables each week, to regularly make sure we’re working on the most important thing, to estimate task complexity more accurately, and to constantly improve our process.
With Scrum, we have a few major focus points:
- There is value in how much we produce, not in how much we work. Therefore, each week team members identify what they will be responsible for completing during that sprint. They will demonstrate the final product at the end of the sprint, or they will need to elaborate on why they were unable to finish. In our experience, it’s also a more relaxing, flexible, and healthy working style.
- Scheduled regular communication can help resolve issues more quickly, reduce the number of interruptions or meetings needed throughout the day, and keep team members responsbile for and aware of the tasks they need to have completed. Therefore, we hold daily standup meetings at 10:30. They don’t last longer than 10 minutes.
- It is difficult to estimate how long a release might take. Therefore, we score each task on how complex it is, not on how much time we think it will take. Then, we track our velocity — the running average of how many complexity points we have completed per sprint. Using our velocity, we can see how much we should expect to be able to complete in future sprints.
- As a young company, it is imperitive that we remain responsive to the market and to our customers. Therefore, we implement short, 7-day sprints that allow us to push deliverables and re-prioritize future tasks regularly.
Sprint planning meeting — At the end of the week, we hold a brief meeting to determine the most important things we need to do the next week. At the beginning of the week, we hold our sprint planning meeting to determine what will be done. During this meeting, we prioritize the backlog, and determine what can be feasibly shippable in the next sprint.
Daily Standup — Every day at 10:30 am, we hold a standup. These are held at our Kanban board. At a standup, each team member breifly answers the following questions:
- What have you done since yesterday?
- What do you plan to do today?
- What impediments are in your way?
To maximize the value of our daily standups, team members don’t demo functionality until the sprint review if possible, and avoid discussing progress updates during the day until the next standup unless if immediate feedback or action is needed.
Sprint review — At the end of the week, we hold a sprint review where we review the completed work, the planned work that was not completed, and present demos of the completed work.
We’ve found this process to work really well at applying methodologies around many of our core values and understandings surrounding the work that we have. We’re constantly improving it, so this is really just a snapshot of where we’ve ended up today after two years of tweaking and iterating.
Sound interesting? Join our team! We currently have two open positions.