Using the Kanban Method for a customer blog & social media service of our finance solutions innovation unit

Introduction

Blog services in bigger companies with many departments and hundreds of employees require a strong collaboration to provide marketing-strategy-aligned content on a regular basis. The Kanban Method (described by David J Anderson in his book Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business) provides a strong foundation to foster an end-to-end visual workflow so that managing the flow of work for new blog articles can be simplified. This article describes how the Kanban Method helped to improve our collaboration with different teams and limit our work in progress to get blog articles done faster and avoid overburdening. This series of blog articles comprises four parts: (1) An overview of the overall case study and approach (this article), (2) an article about making policies explicit, (3) an article about the applied Kanban metrics, and (4) an article about the lessons learned in our blog service team. See figures 1 and 2 for some key facts about our company and collaboration among 20 bloggers for our blog service:

Figure 1: Short overview of PPI.X: Together to our common success!
Figure 2: Key facts about the size of our company and our innovation unit

Starting in May 2021, the blog team of our finance solutions innovation unit published more than 35 articles till January 2022. The corresponding LinkedIn profile, where the articles were announced gained from 244 followers to 831 followers and the Average Net Promoter Score (NPS) inside our blog team increased from around 7 of 10 to 9 of 10. Nevertheless, there were some huge collaboration and processual challenges in the first two months. This article describes the biggest bottlenecks and suitable Kanban practices to foster our work together and gain transparency about the blog outcome of our work.

The Kanban method: Short explained

Shortly summarized, according to the Kanban University it is:

A method for defining, managing and improving services that deliver knowledge work.

To fulfill this purpose, the Kanban method comprises of the following main elements:

Three change principles

1. Understand and start with what you do now

2. Gain agreement

3. Encourage acts of leadership

Three service delivery principles

  1. Understand and focus
  2. Manage the work
  3. Regularly review the network

Six general practices

  • Visualize
  • Limit work in progress (WIP)
  • Manage flow
  • Make policies explicit
  • Establish feedback loops
  • Improve collaboratively, evolve experimentally

For deeper information about the three change principles, three service delivery principles, and six practices, see the great article from David J Anderson himself.

Why did I decide to use this practice?

Our aim as Finance Agile Coaches is to develop people’s potential in the IT & finance domain to the maximum and to change organizations in a positive way. In the case of the blog service team, I had the mission to improve the collaboration, output, and outcome of their work. I came around three months after their start (approx. April 2021) to help and foster collaboration.

The objectives were as follows:

  • Foster a COMMON customer-centric awareness of our bloggers and the marketing team with a common view of our customer process
  • Create an end-to-end process and responsibility from a blog topic idea (e.g. customer case studies) to release
  • Make delays transparent, which result from handoffs between different teams, and reduce delays between our bloggers and the marketing team; provide a slack time: utilization max. 80%

The main corresponding challenges can be summarized as follows:

  • A new cross-functional team from different services like marketing, UX, agile, PPI.X website supplier
  • Different opinions between the services — often „more speaking over each other“ than speaking together
  • Utilization of the bloggers and marketing team (10 people for around 800 consultants) was in our growing company in April > 90 %

How did I use this practice?

At first, I ran a two-day workshop with the team based on the STATIK (Systems Thinking Approach To Introducing Kanban) approach from the Kanban method. This comprises the following steps:

  1. Understand what makes the service “fit for purpose” and understand sources of dissatisfaction regarding the current delivery
  2. Analyze sources of and nature of demand
  3. Analyze current delivery capability
  4. Model the service delivery workflow
  5. Identify and define classes of service
  6. Design the Kanban system and socialize design and negotiate implementation

The detailed agenda of the two days workshop is shown in figure 3. The steps of the STATIK are highlighted with colorful rectangles on the right side of each agenda point.

Figure 3: Using the STATIK approach from the Kanban method to gain a common understanding and derive suitable first steps for an evolutionary change of the blog team

Start workshop activities

The workshop comprised of the following activities:

  • Brainstorming the current situation, see figure 4 and figure 5
  • Kanban training about the basic principles & practices
  • Common identification of the objectives
  • Brainstorming and the common design of the Kanban System including the first policies based on the identified urgencies
Figure 4: Shortcut from our 2-day workshop
on an online whiteboard
Figure 5: Some experts from the team: UX, Agile, Marketing

Some key results from the workshop:

  • Identified common synchronization points / cadences
  • Fostered understanding, work together & improved mood of the marketing, UX & agile experts
  • Created a common view on their work with a common designed Kanban Board and policies
  • A common understanding of the usage of a Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) with a historical view starting from April. This chart is described among others in more detail in the corresponding article.

Conclusion and lookout

The Kanban team workshop using the STATIK method fostered our common collaboration and common understanding of the end-to-end workflow in a deep way. I highly recommend this format in case of new teams or teams who struggle or just search for possible improvements. Especially making policies explicit (2) and introducing metrics (3) were key success factors. In the fourth part of this case study, I describe more lessons learned and would be happy if you share your thoughts and insights about this case study with me.

Literature

Kanban Method Guide

Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business

Kanban Maturity Model: A Map to Organizational Agility, Resilience, and Reinvention

Kanban from the Inside: Understand the Kanban Method, connect it to what you already know, introduce it with impact

Fit for Purpose: How Modern Businesses Find, Satisfy, & Keep Customers

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