Do you have a to-do list or maybe even a bullet journal? Well, then the chances are you are already working in an agile way! Creating a list, maybe listing those important tasks first and working your way through until you put a line through them.

When Paul Jordan (Corporate Applications & Database Manager) retired at the end of last year, the team needed a way to track the work that needed to be done in the coming months; a quick and easy to-do list but something geared towards a whole team approach.

To start with we followed a simple Kanban approach I’d used in the past. Drawing a simple table on our whiteboard we used three rows to represent the next three months, adding columns for to-do, in-progress and done. Next up we started writing on some super sticky post-it notes (yes, that really is a product 3M make!) for all the individual tasks that needed to be done. Instantly we could see when things needed to be done by, and when. This quickly enabled us to view team capacity and plan any new tasks accordingly as they came in.

For the past few months this has worked well, our Kanban was good enough, now we are going through another iteration of the process itself! 'To-do', 'in-progress' and 'done' columns are now renamed 'backlog', 'allocated' (or maybe started, we haven’t decided yet) and 'retrospective' to match the terms more commonly used. Rows are now called sprints representing two-week blocks instead of months to aid focus on tasks. Again viewing capacity is instant and we can break down those bigger pieces of work into smaller chunks to keep things on track and maximise our time.

We’ve also created an 'Icebox' (or way, way backlog if you like) where all upcoming work yet to be allocated goes. There is also a 'bugs', 'chores' and 'side hustles' box where our ideas and things that need to be fixed (but have current workarounds) live.

It’s not perfect and it’s a work in progress (we do need to reflect more on the ‘done’ pile, but also celebrate our successes too), but it acts as a focal point for the team where we can have stand-up meetings; discuss priorities and plan our upcoming work. For our customers, it goes towards setting expectations and timescales. Whilst we try not to move our tasks around, this approach does allow us to be flexible and re-align tasks should they need to be.

Perhaps one day we’ll move to a tool like Pivotal Tracker, Trello or even Planner which is part of the Office 365 suite currently rolling out, but sometimes keeping it simple really is all you need to do, it’s quick and easy.

Posted in: Communications & Collaboration, Digital Data & Technology Group

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  • We have used Trello for a while, though mostly for the user group enhancement requests, and also he HR team tried Jira for a while. The trouble with any electronic method is if you start adding details to the card, then you get into a tangle about what is on there and what should just be on the relevant TopDesk ticket then it is tempting to start talking about using Jira and integrating TopDesk with it and before you know it you are spending all your time thinking about how you organise your work rather than doing it. Post it notes keep it simply - will maybe try re-introducing that in the team. Will be interested in your experience and other's comments.

  • I love Kanban boards!! I learnt all about them when I did my Lean 6 Sigma Green Belt and find them so useful - people always comment on the one in my office, I've even had people take photos of it!! Planner can change to a Kanban style view - you don't have to set it up like that, it will change the view to show it like this however I really think there is something in having a physical copy where you move the sticky notes across - its part of Visual Management...maybe if you do make it electronic you get it projected onto the wall instead 😉