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Why Kanban boards alone don’t cut it in lean product development

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This is a guest post by Elyssa Pallai, VP Marketing at PLAYBOOK, a Strategy 2 Market partner.

Have you seen The Martian?

In this movie, Matt Damon is an astronaut stranded on Mars. He wants to get home, but the odds are stacked against him. He has a limited set of resources and has to overcome what seem to be insurmountable risks before he can get there. In the end, Matt worked with a small team of highly innovative, motivated product developers from NASA and JPL to work on a multitude of problems, quickly, to get to the final outcome of the movie (I won’t spoil the ending for you!).

While watching the movie I couldn’t help but think that new product development teams are on a similar journey…

Thankfully their home base is (most of the time) on Earth.

In Matt’s case, there was only one channel of communication and a small team of people at work. They had all the information they needed on hand and could (often times) quickly solve problems together. Similarly when the team is small and the number projects are limited to one, Kanban boards or project boards (electronic or manual) work well. But as teams grow and the number of projects expands, their limitations become evident.

For example, even with one project on the go, Kanban boards don’t show the critical chain, so project teams can’t see what work needs to be prioritized, where critical hand-offs need to take place or how the work fits in the context on the way to reaching their goal.

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