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Joe Arnold's Blog

Founder / CEO SwiftStack

Yahoo! India KanbanLate last year I set up a kanban system for a Yahoo! India team. They had lots of little features and bug fixes to work on, but they didn’t know how to organize it all to get it done. Scrum wasn’t working well because the nature of the work was too dynamic.

Armed with blue painter’s tape (imported) and post-it’s (imported too) I worked with the lead developer & producer to set it up. I briefly discussed the principals that makes the system work: reduce WIP to increase throughput, use the post-it’s as a signal to begin work.

Time for team indoctrination. The lead engineer explained the system to the folks on the team.

  1. The producer/product manager will queue up ‘things to do’, limited to 5
  2. The developers will take the top items from the top of the queue
  3. When the developers are done, they will be placed in the ‘dev done’ slot
  4. Then the testers will pick up items from the ‘dev done’ slot and test them
  5. When the ‘thing to do’ is done to the tester’s and producer’s/product manger’s satisfaction, it’s ready to release.

I sat back and just watched it unfold. Every few weeks I would go by and I’d stop in to see how things were going. The system was just like a machine; it was systematically pushing features & bug fixes through the team in a very transparent way. The tech lead moved to another project and the kanban system kept working. A new product manager came in and the kanban system kept working.

Just set it and forget it!Ron Popeil sells a Rotisserie & BBQ Oven with the tag line, ‘Just set it and forget it!’ My Aunt ordered the machine. The first thing that you see when you open the box is (I’m paraphrasing from memory) “WARNING! While the slogan may be ‘Just set it and forget it!’ it doesn’t mean you can leave the machine unattended at any time. As with any kitchen appliance involving high temperatures, you must take caution.”

This team, did not literally ‘set it and forget it’. But it was a system that worked very for them with few modifications. They were largely in maintenance mode and were tasked with fixing bugs, making performance improvements, fixing production issues and making incremental improvements.

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