Kanban – The 4th Dimension

Hello fellow seekers of efficiency,

Short introduction to my first blog article here. My name is Bisser Ivanov and I have collected almost 2 decades of experience in all kinds of process improvements like Six Sigma, ISO 9001,  CMMI and lately Lean and in particular Kanban. Primarily in the area of software engineering, where by leading departments and teams in large scale software companies, I had the chance to try out many methods to deliver results in the most efficient way.  I have to say that I’m amazed by what can be achieved with something so “simple” as the Kanban method applied into your day to day activities.

It’s human nature to be efficient and optimized. That’s why solutions which have to do something in that area, 99% of the time tend to be successful. In other words, there was a saying that if you deliver something that will make people “lazy”, it’s going to be huge success. It’s not actually correct, so instead of saying “lazy”, I would go for “save people time, to do something more meaningful”.

Now, when it comes to a day to day activities at your office you might think for solutions and apply different methods that would keep you organized, make you more efficient and optimized.  Starting with a piece of paper and a pen for writing down what you have to do, and ending up with solutions and methods that drive large-scale mega projects with explicit custom processes for proper execution and tracking of all activities. Most of those, do work, but within some boundaries – time, scope and budget. The focus is mostly on playing around those 3 dimensions to get the right ratio and then deliver the result. Oh yes, meanwhile you are checking if you, your team, department or company is efficient. Most of the time, we somehow assume that our teams are productive and they deliver in the most efficient way or at least we pay less attention to this point compared to the other 3. There are methods, however, that have the efficiency embedded in their core as the fourth dimension of a project. Kanban in particular is such method.

Scope:

elephant

  • The “3 dimensional” Project Management represents the scope as a big elephant that has to be eaten. Note: I love animals and I can’t imagine eating an elephant, but for the sake of that most common example, stay with me. So, you can’t chew and swallow the whole thing at once. You need to draw your swords and knives and start cutting the Elephant in pieces. First into bigger pieces, then cut again into smaller ones and again, until you reach something that you are able to chew and eat. You have now your plate full of pieces and you know how much time and resources you will need to eat the elephant.
  • The fourth dimension would focus on how to make those cuts perfect. So, perfect and efficient, that they will eventually end up into not cutting the elephant at all.  What would you do then? Well liquify it. Just think of it as a big jelly elephant, that you could put a straw into it and start drinking instead of eating. You could get a bigger straw, or many smaller ones. There are so many other things you could do, to improve your efficiency if the work is represented as a flow.

 Time:images

  • Time is a stretchy variable, still the “3 dimensional” Project Management converts it into deadlines, milestones, monthly somethings and so on. This way it is tangible and could be measured. The focus goes strictly to that dimension, where the most common expression is “Let’s see what can we do for the time we have?”
  • The 4th dimension, converts time to speed. Because the  speed measures performance and ultimately efficiency (assuming that quality is not sacrificed). The expression here would be “What is your cycle time, or how fast can you produce that”. In the end of the day both representations lead to producing results, but the latter has a clear focus on productivity.

Budget: (Resources / Team)rowers

  • Standard Project Management: This is your Team, inside you have your experts, assign and push them tasks based on the expertise, measure progress, get the job done.  Straight forward, just make sure everyone has enough work and not being idle and your team is in top delivery mode.
  • The 4th dimensional approach looks at your team from the perspective of efficiency. Tasks are no longer pushed and assigned, they are pulled and distributed by the TEAM members. You don’t push work for them – quite the opposite, you constrain, limit them from taking too much tasks. A good analogy would be a Greek Galley with slave rowers “motivated” by the whip compared to a Dragon boat with professional rowers synchronized by a drum. The former get results only when the master is watching, but the latter are there to break any record out there.

As a conclusion I would say that having any method and it’s corresponding tools to run your project is a great start and definitely better than nothing. Having the 4th dimension, though, is a kick ass productivity advantage that will make you stars in everything that you do!

Happy Kanbanizing!

This entry was posted in Kanban, Lean Management, Misc on by .

About Bisser Ivanov

Keen on innovation, exploration or simply trying new things. Would that be a technology, new methodology or just cool gadgets. Got almost 2 decades of experience working as Software Engineer, Team Lead, QA/Processes Manager and Managing Director in mid-size and large scale Software Companies: Prosyst, SAP, Software AG.

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