We’ve all been there. A new feature that involves 3 different developers, or a package of work that you know can be finished by the end of the day but the current tool is holding you back. If you are not using Kanban or Scrum and are interested in trying it in a small team, single-day project setting within your existing processes, follow these steps!

1Steal from your coworkers

Specifically, some sticky notes, a pen, and their whiteboard.

Find a flat space on a table, even if its your coworkers desk. If you have a clean whiteboard, that would be ideal.

Create 3 columns (~two sticky notes wide), with the titles “New,” “Active,” and “Done.”

Create several rows (just over 1 sticky high) in the Active column, and write down each dev’s name in small letters at the  top left of each row.

2Write it all down

For each sticky note, write down the ticket number at the top left and a short description in the middle. Leave room at the bottom right.

Then, stick the sticky on the whiteboard under New in order of MVP priority, top to bottom, but functionally grouped to help devs choose what to work on.

3Bring the team in

By now you should have done some research into kanban. First impressions are critical, so make sure you’ve thought the process through before imposing your system on others. For more information, check out Leankit’s intro to Kanban.

Once you’re prepared, bring the team in and discuss the aggressive timeline of the tasks on the board and that you’d like to trial kanban as a possible tool for this and future projects.

For this trial, the simple steps are as follows:

  1. When you start a task, walk up to the board and take up to 2 stickies from the top thats relevant to you and place them under Active in the row that contains your name.
  2. Once you’re done (code checked in), walk up to the board and move the completed tasks to Done
  3. You can’t own more than 8 hours of tasks in the active column

After getting buy-in, write down their estimates on the sticky notes if necessary.

NOTE: If your team are not willing to try Kanban, don’t fret! (with solid reasoning of course, so be sure to do your research). Simply skip to the last step and reflect on the their thoughts. Kanban is a collaborative tool, and should only be used in friendly teams that are willing to try.

4Get Estimates

Since your team is together, this would be a great time to do some quick estimation!

For each sticky note, discuss with the relevant developer (or do planning poker, but not suggested for a first run) on what they think it might take to complete the task, using the following (almost) standard planning poker values: 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8. Anything bigger than 8 should be broken into 2 sticky notes and re-estimated. If tasks have already been estimated prior, round up to the closest interval.

The idea of these “planning poker” numbers are to quickly gauge the utilization of your devs and quickly estimate the length of the project, in half-days. With easy-to-slice numbers, you can quickly math the effort required of your devs.

5Run the Trial

Invite team members to come up and start grabbing tasks! For those that don’t jump up, you ask what they want to tackle first, guiding them to the top left stickies that’s still relevant. Place it in active if you need, you don’t want to make the situation awkward!

Once the team disperses, your job isn’t done. As lead of this small project, you’ll have to continue guiding devs into choosing work. Many devs are used to being handed tickets, so it is a bit of a transition for them. Take time and help them!

Over time stickies will move to Done, and for those tasks you can re-integrate the “DEV Complete” status into your existing system, ready for the next build.

6Look Back

Once everything is set to Done, bring the team together and discuss how Kanban is different, what benefits/drawbacks this system has, and whether they are open to exploring more.

Be sure to write down people’s feedback, and think about what you can do to improve Kanban should you bring it to other teams in a more-standardized format.