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I work in government and our department has a communication problem. I'm trying to use a kanban board to solve this. I went ahead and started using a kanban board for just myself so I could figure out what to do about certain unique problems we face that programmers don't - my office does things related to programming, but there's very little programming going on by design.

A major issue I'm running into is that most of what I do is just waiting for other people so I can get past blocks and finish up my stuff.

How should I be handling this in kanban? I've tried raising my work in progress, but that's just lead to more waiting.

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It looks like you have a process for doing your work that has intermediate stages where other people need to work on each work-item or card. And you have no control over how long they might take to get them done.

This is typical of a "multi-team" Kanban boards where intermediate wait states between teams can take too long and essentially behave like infinite queues.

As Todd said above, all you can do is ensure you have a Kanan board that visualizes your process and work - and helps highlights where the bottlenecks - something like the one below -

enter image description here

At the same time, using a Kanban lool or even a spreadsheet, you can get some additional analysis done to see the patterns of your hold-ups - like who or which team/ type of work is causing the most delays, amount of time lost to different wait stages, and it's root cause analysis which could be captured based on some standard reason codes being captured, etc. You can treat the cards as 'blocked cards' for example and an analysis such as the one that our tool SwiftKanban provides -

enter image description here

The idea of using Kanban is to visualize the bottlenecks and get everyone involved in helping you resolve them.

HTH.

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    Yes visualise the problems, then fix them (well the ≈20% that are causing ≈80% of the problem). – ctrl-alt-delor Aug 8 '18 at 19:00
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TL;DR

A kanban board is only a tool to visualize work. What’s missing is a continual improvement process.

The Kanban Board Isn’t a Process

A kanban board is a useful tool for visualizing work, but it will not inherently solve a process problem for you. However, it may surface the dysfunction, and often helps stakeholders to identify where work is getting stuck.

A mature kanban process then looks at the waste and disruptions to flow, and feeds them into a continuous improvement process such as a review of the organization’s working agreements or a team retrospective. The outcome of that process is expected to be an evolutionary (not revolutionary) change to the existing process that attempts to reduce waste and improve flow.

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Kanban by definition "is an approach to incremental, evolutionary process and systems change for knowledge work organizations."

Part of the problem you are trying to solve is outside your control. Increasing Work in progress limit may not be the only option. My suggestions:

  1. Influence and persuasion swim-lane. Influence others to complete their tasks OR if you like, do it for them. This does not require a change the Work in progress limit.

  2. (Maybe) Blocked = Done. You could potentially mark your blocked card as done. Any further work you deliver can be new Kanban card.

  3. Make Kanban board highly visible to stakeholders and peers. Social pressure could help you influence and get things moving.

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