Kanban In Non IT Area


About a month ago, me and my team got a mandate from our CEO to help other area outside IT to have more agility. We were thinking on what can we do for that.

Several ideas came, like making Lunch and Learn Session with the leadership once a week, give the leadership some books to read, etc.

Not all of that resulted as expected. There were some result, but not as expected.

Then we (Rituparna KarΒ , Deepak Balodhi, Jazilah Firdaus and myself) came up with the idea of applying Kanban to their Business As Usual work.

In this article I will share on things we did when we try to help them with Kanban.

Why Kanban?

In the term of transformation in our organization, we don’t want to create too much change in their day to day work. We don’t want to make them see that agility is giving them more things to do, more meetings to have, or even worse make them feel that agility is giving them a burden.

Kanban on the other hand is starting from what they are.
The difference is that Kanban makes things visualized better, create transparency and collaboration which hopefully after implementing that, they will spot the bottleneck and try to figure out how to solve it by themselves.

How To Start?

The non IT department we choose was Corporate Communication.


Simply because their flow is more “simple” and they are also consists of young and creative people who are more open to change than other department.

First Step: Communicate

As a start, we went to their leader and explained her what we intended to do, what it takes and what result she might get after that.

This is important, since the team will need their leader’s support when they want to implement this. Somehow they are still in the command and control culture where whatever the leader told them to do, they will do.

The leader is a super supportive woman. She’s new and one of her goal is also to make the corp comm team more productive, collaborative, self organized and agile.
So yes, checked βœ…, we got her approval and support.

We asked her to talk to her managers below her to tell them that we will come to each team to understand more about their process so we can come up with some idea how their Kanban board will look like.

Second Step: Talk To The Sub Departments Team

After their leader talk to the department heads, we scheduled a meeting with each of departments.

There are 4 departments under corp comm: Internal Communication, External Communication, Digital Communication and Design.

We gathered what are the things they do day to day, what are the requests come to their desk, how are those requests coming to them, what they do when those comes, what are the flow of work they do from start until the requests considered to be done.

To be honest, we were so happy while doing this since we found them as easy to talk to people and very cooperative.

We explained to them at the beginning that we are not from IT (although we are) and we are not here to change how they work, nothing wrong with how they do their job.

We are here to make things easy for them and make things more visible, so no one will tell them that they are not working efficiently again πŸ™‚

Communication is the key.

Third Step: Our Own Internal Meeting

After we talk to all of the departments, we had our own internal meeting.
We discussed on how their Kanban board will look like, what are the swimlanes will be in the Doing section, when their daily standup will most probably happen, how we will measure their work, etc.

Of course, this will only be our reference, so that we will have the same languange and understanding when we want to guide them implementing Kanban.
Later on, they will have to figure out what’s good for them and how their Kanban board will look like.

Fourth Step: Communicate The Result With Their Leader

We brought this result to their leader. We showed her our suggestion and she seemed agree with that.
She also made some suggestion on some things that we agreed on.

The next step is to have a longer session with all of the people in her team to help them making their own board and their team agreement.

Fifth Step: The Kanban Session With The Whole Team

In this session we cover some topics

  • Overview of Agility, Business Agility
  • Overview of KANBAN and Board Setup
  • Work Items Classification
  • Team Alliance

Each of us got a topic to present. Since my part is the “Overview of KANBAN and Board Setup“, I will share with you about this part only.

Later, in other post, me or my friend will share about the other topic.

Overview of Kanban and Board Setup

To be honest, this is the hardest part but also the most exciting part.
Like hamburger, this is the meat! πŸ”

I was trying to think on how to make this session not boring, catchy, easy to understand and applicable in no time.

Then I remember a game I used to play.

It called Diner Dash.

In that game, a waiter, helped with a cook, run a restaurant.
Customers come and need to be seated, taken the order, then the cook will cook the food, the waiter will serve the food, the waiter will take the bill, the waiter clean the dishes and she should be ready to take another customer if any.

There are also some situations in that game that require the waiter to focus on their special needs, like customer with kids, businessman customers, old people customers, they are all have different demand and their patience of waiting for the service are also different.

So I use this analogy to help them understand.
I create this slide below:

By using these slides, I was hoping that they will understand and come up with:

  • Backlog
  • Prioritized Backlog
  • To Do
  • Doing SwimLanes
  • Done items
  • Work In Progress Limit

Their response was awesome. This was what they came up with:

It was so fast, easy and understandable by all the people.

Sixth Step: Monitoring

Of course the job is not ended there. We have to help them doing that at least for few weeks.

To help them understand how to do daily standup, to ensure that they are doing it, to answer their questions if any, to help them becoming self organized and help them to see the benefit.
More like the job of Scrum Master in Scrum.

If you expect this article to give you the full story of this, then I am sorry to let you down.

This is just a beginning.

The team are just starting to do it for mostly a week.

No need to worry though, I will update you on the result after few month, most probably with more information on what other things we do to help them go through the process.

We are all learning and we are on the long journey πŸ™‚


Most people say that agility is IT thing.
But this article shows that agility is for everyone.

Helping your organization in agility doesn’t have to be complicated.

Start with some small step, show small results, let them see the benefit.
Hopefully in no time, the “Agile Virus” will spread and all will feel the benefit of it.

Every giant leap was started by a small baby step



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