Using Kanban to Organize Your Work

A lot of our Business Analysis work is very much the same from one project to another. Because we do the same tasks over and over, it can be useful to organize the work on a Kanban board.

A Kanban board is used to control the amount of work you have in progress at any particular point in time. It also shows the status of the work and how you have it prioritized. It is an excellent way to communicate with your manager and your team exactly what you are working on. At the same time, it is very simple to create, maintain, and review.

First describe a sequence of work. For example, if I were writing user stories for a project, once I have identified a set of user stories my sequence of work might look like this:

  1. Generate ideas
  2. Write the basic user story
  3. Write the acceptance criteria
  4. Review the user story with the product owner and set its priority
  5. Review the user story with the project team and get a size estimate
  6. Review the user story with a test professional and write scenarios
  7. Review the user story with a UI designer and create mockups

Each item on the list will become a column on my Kanban board.

Kanban1

Next, think about how much work in progress makes sense for each column. The idea column can probably be unlimited. How many ideas do you want to work on at the same time to write user stories for them? How many user stories do you want to work on at the same time to write acceptance criteria? What you will do with these numbers is control how many user stories you are working on at the same time. For the columns you want to limit, add that number to the column. I have big numbers for the Product Owner and Team reviews because those reviews are comparing a set of user stories to each other and so they work better with a large number of user stories. I have a small number from idea to user story because I have found that most of the time one idea turns into many user stories.

Kanban2

Finally, use the Kanban board. I have purchased 3-sided presentation boards from an office supply story and put the kanban labels across the top. Then I use sticky notes for the items in the column. I can set the presentation board on the end of my desk where I can see it and I can easily take it to meetings to share with others.

I start with generate ideas. I will use whatever techniques make sense to come up with a list of ideas of what to do in the project. I write each one on a sticky and put them on the board under generate ideas column.

Kanban3

Then I pick one that looks important and move it into the Write User Story column. This shows I am working on turning that idea into some number of user stories.

Kanban4

I write each user story on an index card styled sticky note. I can post them under the idea in the write user story column.

Kanban5

I will move no more than 5 of those user stories into the Write Acceptance Criteria column because that is the next thing to do and I will work on no more than 5 at a time. If there were more than 5 user stories, the rest wait in the previous column. They are on hold until I get the first 5 done. Also, I move fewer than 5 user stories. 5 is the maximum I set on the column.

Kanban6

Some people like to use red colored dots to put on items that are waiting, and sometimes make a note about what they are waiting for. This can be very useful when you are waiting for someone else to do something. You can show that your work is blocked and it is obvious to everyone.

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Geri Schneider Winters is the primary author of the popular Use Case book "Applying Use Cases: A Practical Guide" and the founder of Wyyzzk, Inc. She has over 25 years experience spanning the software development lifecycle. Geri has learned her craft working with folks such as Grady Booch, Jim Rumbaugh, Ivar Jacobson, Walker Royce, Scott Ambler, Warren Woodford, Philippe Kruchten, and Kendall Scott, along with many less well known, but equally talented, people. Geri has worked in many companies in many industries, including IBM, Boeing, Lockheed, Adobe, Intuit, Delta Dental, United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Money Store, Charles Schwab, The Federal Reserve Bank, Visa International, USAA, Stanford University, University of California, Carnegie Mellon University, HiLCoE College, Agilent, Knights Technology, Deloitte and Touche, Safeway, and Coca-Cola Enterprises.

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