3 things successful project organizations never ignore


Many things changed in 2020 and I, logically, companies need to boost their growth by launching new products and services as soon as possible. However, I am concerned with what this means to you. I see your anxiety because of dedicating all your time to solving the issues that arise every day in your projects and still you do not deliver on time, your clients are dissatisfied with the delays and the quality, and your teams demand fewer changes of priorities. That is why you prepare for the Project Status Meeting the night before and you barely have time to think about the new products and markets that you could develop in order to diversify and strengthen your business.

You want to be able to see the status of your projects at a glance without reviewing numerous reports and doing additional calculations in Excel in order to assess the risks of delay or extra cost and decide how to address them. You want to know how the other projects that could affect yours are progressing. You need to save the time that both you and your teams dedicate to the bureaucracy to be able to use it for developing the projects and thus reduce delays and management expenses.

I know these situations and the frustration they generate in responsible people like you. They are common pains. My team and I have seen them in technology companies, banking, insurance, as well as industrial companies. Moreover, the organizations were using certain project management methods such as PMBOK, Scrum, or their own method. The project managers had received certified training and were applying the learned techniques. Despite all the effort, the challenges persisted.

Kanban practices, properly integrated with your management method, provide you with the data and feedback you need to manage your projects with agility and confidence.

On our website, you can find case studies of companies that have overcome this type of situation. Here I am going to summarize the three keys that successful companies never ignore when it comes to managing their projects and portfolio.


1. The Management leads the introduction of Kanban in the organization

Businesses achieve their objectives through their projects. Therefore, the Management wants to ensure the optimal functioning of the organization. However, and sometimes with good reason, they are concerned about changing the management practices. They carry lots of responsibility on their shoulders and prefer not to take additional risks of introducing new routines.

If this is your case, you have to know that Kanban is a management method that provides visibility at all levels and an understanding of what really happens in the company’s processes.

In addition, management policies precisely address the “gaps” that exist in the process definitions and facilitate the coordination of work between different teams and business areas. Without the involvement of managers, it is unlikely that effective company policies will be established. Managers interested in aligning the performance of the business areas take advantage of the potential of Kanban to overcome barriers and communication problems in their company without making drastic or structural changes.

Kanban makes visible the improvement opportunities in the current processes. Logically, this rises the need to define relevant actions. The leadership and involvement of the Management allow taking the right decisions and thus gaining benefits quickly.

Furthermore, if you seek to develop a culture of customer orientation, collaboration, respect, and focus on the flow of customer value, you have to know something else. – These are all values of the Kanban Maturity Model (KMM), and the Kanban practices that reinforce them naturally. Have a look at the KMM Overview poster to understand how the culture and business outcomes evolve with the organizational maturity.

If you want to see a real example of Management’s leadership and involvement in the improvement of a company project management, read the case study of ULMA Handling Systems.


2. See and manage end-to-end project workflow

Frequently companies decide to pilot new practices in one or a few teams and postpone visualizing and managing the end-to-end (E2E) project workflow. They typically do this because they are afraid of affecting entire projects, involving different teams or business units, or because they do not know how to visualize and manage work through several interrelated kanban systems. Consequently, they only have partial visibility and fail to gain the benefits at project level.

Therefore, if you are concerned with your projects, visualize and manage their workflow from request to final delivery. Make sure that you obtain quickly the information you need to progress in a coordinated manner. Your team members will help you because they also want to enjoy order at work, having clear priorities, and as little bureaucracy as possible.

Capture ML2 KPPM poster

This corresponds to maturity level 2, Customer-Driven organization in the Kanban Maturity Model. Connect the teams that are involved in your projects to take advantage of the shared visibility, the fluid coordination, and the fast feedback about the status of work. Have a look at our Kanban Project, Product and Portfolio Management poster, for ideas of how to implement it.

Companies like ULMA Handling Systems and Ekide have shared their experience with managing large and complex projects. The Finance area of BBVA Spain applied these practices, appropriately adapted, to the management of E2E finance processes and reported a significant reduction in their delivery times as well as overhead costs.


3. Evaluate the outcomes and adapt your management method adequately

At this point, you understand that Kanban, in particular the practices of making policies explicit and implementing feedback loops, brings clarity into your processes and decision-making frameworks, including your work prioritization criteria. This allows you to act quickly in unforeseen situations. An organization that is well-aligned and focused in their purpose, achieves better project results in a sustainable manner.

Moreover, developing a holistic understanding of how your organization works and “listening” to it (listen to the persons, the data, and voice of the customers) helps you to adapt your management method to the changing circumstances and to evolve the organizational culture.

Therefore, evaluate the benefits you gain using the following questions:

  • Is your internal project management more agile and effective?
    • Can you identify the status of work / project easily?
    • Are the times of waiting on other team/business unit shorter?
    • Have you reduced the time of blockage due to internal causes as well as the rework one?
    • Do you use homogenous work prioritization criteria?
    • Have you reduced the overhead time and cost?
    • Is your process consistent?
    • Is the workflow balanced?
    • Do you meet delivery deadlines? At least, have you reduced the delays?
  • How have the relationships between teams/business areas evolved?
    • Do you prioritize and plan projects together taking into account the customer expectations (project objectives), the strategic priorities and the actual capacity?
    • Do you use agreed criteria for starting and finishing work items?
    • Have you agreed policies for managing internal dependencies to ensure that the dependencies do not affect meeting project deadlines?
    • Does the Management make decisions about the portfolio and the company’s strategy taking into account the real capacity of the organization and the current project status?
  • Has the relationship with your customers improved?
    • Do you know the level of fulfillment of your client expectations based on data?
    • Do you know the reasons for your customer dissatisfaction?
    • Do you define actions to improve customer satisfaction through scientific experiments?
    • Are your clients involved in your planning and do they respect your capacity? (or are they still imposing end dates and insisting that you start working on their requests as soon as possible?)

Project management is still a difficult discipline. Responding quickly and appropriately to changes in customer expectations and project circumstances requires a change in the customs of the entire organization (not just of project managers or PMO members). Kanban and the Kanban Maturity Model help to introduce this change in an evolutionary way.

You can make it happen.

To establish a good foundation for the success of your initiative, try the following: that (1) The executive Management leads the change, (2) See and understand the end-to-end project workflow, and (3) Evaluate the outcomes and adapt your management method appropriately.

Read our case studies to learn from the experience of companies that use Kanban to manage their projects and portfolio.


Teodora Bozheva
Accredited Kanban Trainer & Consultant
Co-author of the Kanban Maturity Model

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