Category Archives: Kanban & Lean

Posts related to Kanban and Lean methodology.

Virtual Teams: How to Make Them Succeed

At this year’s Lean Transformation Conference in Tacoma, Washington, Arun Kumar spoke on the subject of “Virtual Teams: How to Make Them Succeed”.

A synopsis of the presentation:

Virtual teams can be as successful, even more so, than traditional (collocated) teams – but you need to understand how the project dynamics change when everyone can’t be in the same room at the same time. In this session we will cover the key success factors to building a high-performing virtual teams: how you can plan your work, run your daily standups, communicate, and share content. We will discuss the different roles and expectations of Project Leaders, Team Members and Visitors, and how people can juggle multiple projects at the same time.

The presentation was an hour-long, including Q&A; here’s an edited version of the talk (about 45 minutes long.)

Arun Kumar, on how to Make Virtual Teams Succeed

An improvement to our Views function

We just updated Kerika today, and along with the usual bug fixes and other behind-the-scenes stuff we have made an improvement to the way Views are shown on your Home Page:

Improved Views in Kerika
Improved Views in Kerika

Some of our users have dozens of boards in active use at the same time, with large (and sometimes overlapping) teams, and as a result their Views counts are nearly always high.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the Home page now shows two counts for each View:

  • The total number of items that match for that View, and
  • The number of items that match that are assigned to you.

This makes it easier to see if you need to go back to a View to catch up on something that’s directly related to you, i.e. is assigned to you.

What’s New and Updated: a new Kerika View

Views are unique to Kerika: no other work management system provides such an easy way to see what matters, across all the boards you are working on.

These Views make it easy for organizations to really scale up their use of Kerika across multiple projects and many ongoing projects at the same time.

We have now added a very useful new View: What’s New and Updated.  As you might guess from the name, this View lets you catch up on everything that’s new and changed, across all the boards you are working on — as a Board Admin, Team Member or Visitor.

What's New and Updated
What’s New and Updated (click for a larger image)

This View can work very effectively as a Dashboard for managers who need to keep track of many different boards, all working at the same time: instead of constantly revisiting each board one-by-one, this View is a simple, comprehensive way to see everything that’s changing across all your boards.

The updates are shown in Kerika’s unique “heads-up” notification style: the blue New tags highlight cards that have been newly added to your boards (that you haven’t opened yet), and the orange highlights show you precisely what’s changed on your old cards.

The new and changed cards are sorted into columns, with each column containing all the new and changed items within a particular board.  The newest changes appear at the top of a column, and if a board has nothing new to report, the corresponding column is not shown (so your View doesn’t get cluttered up.)

(Cards that are moved to the Done or Trash columns on a board are not included in the View, to help avoid getting the View cluttered.)

As with all Views, it’s easy to operate on all the cards within a column, by selecting the Column Actions button that appears on the top of each column:

View options
View options

The Mark All Cards As Read action is useful if you want to ignore everything that’s going on in a particular board, e.g. when you have just returned from a status meeting where you got fully briefed on what’s happening on a particular board.

Another way to temporarily ignore individual boards is to Hide Column: this collapses the column from the View, and let’s you focus more intently on the handful of boards you care most about.

Selecting a card in this View lets you open the card within the View itself, or to open it on the board where the card actually sits:

View card
View card

(Sometimes it’s easy to deal with cards just by themselves; sometimes the View Board action is more helpful, if you want to be sure you understand the full context in which a card changed.)

Using your mouse’s right-click action will also bring up a bunch of useful actions for that card:

Mouse actions
Mouse actions

In addition to all the other actions you can perform on cards, you also have the option to get the URL (address) of card using the Get Link action.  Every cards, every canvas and every board in Kerika has a unique address, and using these URLs anywhere on a board, e.g. in the board’s details or chat, will automatically set up a link between the two cards.

When you mark a card as “read” on this View, it remains on the View until you click on the Refresh button (shown at the top-right corner of the View).

And, as with all Views in Kerika, the What’s New and Updated View includes the “For Me” toggle button on the top-right corner: clicking this will quickly filter the View to show you just those items that are personally assigned to you.

For Me toggle
For Me toggle (click for larger image)

This feature is available to all our users, just like every other feature in Kerika: it doesn’t matter whether you are still in your 30-day free trial, you are working on the free Individual Plan, or are benefiting from Kerika’s free Academic and Nonprofits Accounts. Everyone always get the same Kerika goodies 🙂

Our Views feature just got even better

We have improved our Views feature to include a simple toggle that lets you filter the entire View to show just those items that are assigned to you.

This new toggle appears on the top-right corner of the View, and we have added a Tip to help you understand the function:

What Needs Attention without filtering
What Needs Attention without filtering

Clicking on the toggle will immediately shrink the View to show just those items that are assigned to you:

What's Due with filtering
What’s Due with filtering

All the other items are hidden from the View, and a simple count at the bottom of each column shows you how many items are assigned to others. In the example shown above, 1 item is assigned to someone else, and is due today.

It’s a simple, fast feature that we think shows the best of Kerika’s design approach 🙂

This feature has been added to all of our Views that need this:

  • What’s Due
  • What Needs Attention
  • What Got Done

What's Due without filtering
What’s Due without filtering

Using Google Drive without Google Docs

If you are using Kerika with Google, you don’t have to convert your documents to the Google Docs format in order to use Google Drive.

Google Docs Format Preference
Google Docs Format Preference

You can use this preference setting to ensure that your Microsoft Office documents, for example, are retained in MS Office format even while they they are stored and shared using Google Drive.

 

A simpler menu for cards and columns on your Task Boards and Scrum Boards

We used to have separate button, and associated menus, for actions related to cards and for actions related to columns:

Separate card and column actions
Separate card and column actions

This reflected the history of the Kerika product: we first designed and built the card actions, and much later added the column actions.

In retrospect, however, we concluded that separating these into two separate menus was not a good idea: it was confusing for our users to remember which menu supported which action. (Even the Kerika team, which uses Kerika for everything that the company does, was having trouble remembering the differences between the two buttons and menus.)

We have fixed that usability problem with our latest release: a single button is shown, and the popup menu that appears includes both card actions and column actions:

Combined Card and Column Actions Menu
Combined Card and Column Actions Menu

Clicking on the Sort and Move actions brings up all the sorting and moving options you have; the Sort menu now has a much richer set of actions:

Sort options
Sort options

We have also done some small tweaks to the sorting action: Sort by Status now puts the On Hold cards at the bottom of the column, below all the ones flagged as Normal.

Seeing at a glance what’s hidden

If you hide a column from your view of a Task Board or Scrum Board, Kerika now makes it clear whether this column has any cards or not:

Hidden columns
Hidden columns

In the example shown above, the Release Notes column is empty, so it is shown in a light shade of grey, while the Final Review column has at least one card, and it is shown in black.

Kerika also helps you see, at a glance, whether the columns you are hiding have any updates you haven’t caught up on, or cards that are overdue:

Hidden columns with updates and overdue dates
Hidden columns with updates and overdue dates

The orange icon in the example above shows that the This Sprint column contains cards with updates on them that you haven’t caught up on yet, and the red icon shows that the Planning column contains overdue cards.

We have added support for Google Team Drive

We have long had a deep, excellent integration with Google Apps: you can sign up with your Google ID and have all your Kerika-related files stored in your own Google Drive, where you can access them independently of the Kerika app.

We are now taking that one step forward, with seamless integration with Google Team Drive.

Google Team Drives are shared spaces where teams can easily store, search, and access their files anywhere, from any device.

Unlike files in My Drive, files in Team Drive belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave, the files stay exactly where they are so your team can continue to share information and get work done.

Team Drives is available on G Suite Enterprise, G Suite Business, or G Suite for Education editions.

You don’t need to do anything different: the integration is built-in with the latest version of Kerika (and, since we are software-as-a-service, everyone always uses the latest version of our product!) and the integration is seamless.

Kanban vs Scrum: what’s the difference, and which should you use?

We have a complete (one-hour long) video of the tutorial presented by Arun Kumar, CEO of Kerika, at the recent Lean Transformation Conference on the subject of Kanban vs Scrum: what’s the difference, and which should you use?

(The slides for this talk, and more, can be found on Slideshare.)

Topics covered:

Forming a team 00:01:32

The Product Owner 00:02:01

The Scrum Master 00:02:55

The Scrum Team 00:03:55

Pulling Work 00:04:04

The Product Backlog 00:05:45

Scrum Stories 00:06:25

Writing a good Story 00:07:35

From Epics to Stories 00:10:25

From Stories to Tasks 00:11:13

Estimating with Story Points 00:13:04

Organizing a Sprint 00:15:00

How long is a Sprint? 00:19:15

Sprints in theory 00:20:32

Sprints in real-life 00:20:53

Daily Standups 00:23:25

Burndown Charts 00:24:13

Team Velocity 00:25:35

Best Practices for Getting Scrum Right 00:28:00

The Nuclear Option 00:30:57

Where does Scrum work best? 00:32:02

Scrum in Government 00:33:25

Where does Kanban work best? 00:35:43

Collaboration Networks 00:37:25

Paper doesn’t scale 00:38:30

Using Kerika for Personal Kanban 00:39:50

Using Kerika for Team Kanban 00:40:24

Using Kerika in the Public Sector 00:40:37

Using Kerika for Scrum Projects 00:40:54

Capturing stories as “virtual sticky notes” 00:41:20

Summary 00:42:57

Question: how do you deal with poor performers on the team? 00:49:15

Question: in Scrum, are units of measure like lines of code still applicable? 00:50:08

Question: how do you measure individual performance? 00:51:03

Question: how do you handle poor performers within a team? 00:52:25

Question: when do you use the Nuclear Option? 00:54:20

Question: how do you estimate stories? 00:55:54

Photo credits: Abdul-Rasul Kassamali, Jama Abdirahman.