Author: Isabel Villanueva



After 8 years implementing project and portfolio management with Kanban, in this guide we collect the key concepts and the steps to follow so that you can apply them successfully in your organization.



Após 8 anos implementando a gestão de projetos e portfólios com Kanban, neste guia coletamos os conceitos-chave e os passos a seguir para que você possa aplicá-los com sucesso em sua organização.

Metrics, KPIs, OKR, what do we really need?

(A true story; the names of the woman and the company are changed).

Ana is the PMO director at Compagil and this year she is leading a strategic initiative.

In the recent years the company has carried out different initiatives – some business areas have piloted Agile practices, others Kanban. The usage of OKR has been studied at the strategic level. The COO is advocating for using Lean in order to improve process efficiency and reduce costs. The Talent and Culture area is focused on introducing a culture of collaboration, transparency and customer orientation.

Despite all the pilots running in parallel, project management is still done and reported in the classic manner.

The people responsible for each initiative have their ideas and proposals of what management practices have to be introduced in the company. However, the conversations between them are not very fruitful, one has the feeling that they speak in different languages.

So, Ana’s goal is to harmonize the use of all the methods and terminologies and define the company’s standard project management process and its tailoring guidelines according to the different project characteristics and circumstances that occur in their execution.

“Defining a common language that accommodates the ideas and concepts of all these different methods in the company’s vocabulary, is a difficult task in itself. However, the metrics issue is even more complicated.” told me Ana.

“All the methods bring their metrics and in Compagil we use others historically. I do not understand the relationships between Agile metrics, Kanban, KPIs and OKRs. It is impossible and counterproductive to measure everything and track every aspect that the methods suggest. So, what do we really have to measure and without losing control over our projects?” continued Ana.

More and more often I have this same conversation. Therefore, I thought that responding to these doubts in a post could help you too. Of course, if you are in a situation similar to Ana’s, you should bring together your colleagues who are involved in the different initiatives, and, together, develop the appropriate solution for your company.

OKRs, metrics, KPIs – what is it and how to use them?

Each company is unique. Therefore, I am going to concentrate on the main concepts and how to use them in the development of your solution.

1. Define Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)

Essentially, an initiative of this type should resolve real organization’s problems to be useful.

Therefore, start by identifying the main pain points.

Based on these, define the organization’s objectives for the year, the next quarter or another relatively short period of time.

Then, define what results would demonstrate progress or achievement of each one of the objectives. Think about tangible and measurable results, not just actions.

An example of objectives and key results is illustrated in the following image:

  • OBJECTIVE 1: Have visibility of the project status
    • Result 1: 3 business areas have their boards in Kanbanize
    • Result 2: 3 business areas visualize the following aspects of all their work on their Kanbanize boards: person doing it, status in the process, blockage (if any)
  • OBJECTIVE 2: Reduce project delays
    • Result 1: List the top 10 reasons for blocking project work
    • Result 2: List the top 5 reasons for which the job stays 6+ months in progress
    • Result 3: Obtain delivery time data by type of work in the 3 business areas
  • OBJECTIVE 3: Introduce the culture of collaboration
    • Result 1: Identified 3 key areas of knowledge sharing
    • Result 2: Defined a list of appropriate actions to extend the culture of collaboration in the company

Use the complete image of your objectives and key results to agree what to focus the attention of your organization on. Make sure that you all have the same understanding of your objectives and results to be achieved and that these are aligned with the strategic direction of your company.

2. Define actions and metrics

The next step is define the appropriate actions to achieve the results. Following our example, these could be:

And now we come to the question “what metrics related to the actions allow you to demonstrate / evidence the results?”.

For example, to get the top 10 causes of workflow stops, we need to get the list of the causes for the blockages, as well as the time the work items stayed blocked due to them.

Stay focused. If your tree gets too branchy, focus on the 3-5 most important objectives and 2-4 results/outcomes per objective. You can address the other aspects In the next improvement cycle.

You see the relationships between OKR and Metrics, do not you?

3. Define KPIs

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) measure the completion of business goals. Therefore, they are called Key. KPIs indicate whether the business is healthy and developing well.

Typically, these indicators are related to the following:

  • Meeting customer expectations
  • Time to market; product and service delivery time, as well as customer delivery time
  • Efficiency of key organizational processes
  • Product and service quality
  • Employee satisfaction

Both, improvement objectives (related to pain points) and KPIs can be defined for each level of the organization.

If any of your improvement objectives is related to a business goal and, therefore, to a KPI, mark it to make it explicit for the entire organization.

For example, let us assume that Objective 2: Reduce delays is related to the business goal Reduce time-to-market. Then, the indicator for project delays is KPI. Therefore, the Lead Time and Blocked Time metrics that are associated with this KPI and are key as well.

Now you have the complete map that you can use to agree and focus the attention of the entire organization on what is important to you.


To wrap up, the improvement objectives are related to current pain points, a specific need of the organization, or a business objective. The results demonstrate the progress towards the objectives. Achieving them requires taking some actions. The metrics allow monitoring and making the right decisions to achieve the objectives. KPIs are indicators and metrics that are related to the achievement of key business goals.

It is important to understand how to define the complete system of objectives – results – actions – metrics. It is even more important to use them effectively to achieve improvements for the organization. Therefore, concentrate on the few objectives and vital results that are important for your company.

Visualizing the relationships between goals, results, actions, and metrics allows you to communicate and align around these goals.


Teodora Bozheva
Accredited Kanban Trainer & Consultant
Co-autora del Kanban Maturity Model


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Metrics to get rid of delay

How long does it take to drive from your home to your office?

It takes me about 15 min. If I have to be more precise – between 15 and 20 min, depending on the traffic.

These three photos are from the Romo tunnel that I pass through almost every day. Before 7:15-7:20am the traffic through the tunnel is smooth and fast. Afterwards, it starts to slow down. From 7:40-7:50 until around 9 you can spend a good time standing, listening on the radio that this highway is collapsed.

Ejemplo tráfico límites WIP foto

The more cars on the road, the slower the traffic.

When it comes to travelling, even if it is a daily commute, we understand that the time it usually takes varies – it depends on how much traffic there is on the road and how long we stay stuck at red lights, junctions, roundabouts or traffic jams.

Sometimes unforeseen events occur – an accident or a close section of the road – for example, to give priority to a cycling tour, due to construction or flooding. So, you have to find another way. And, if we are traveling on an unknown road and we get lost (this happens to me often 😊), then the time to reach the destination also depends on how long it takes us to find the right way. That is, to the usual trip time we add the unforeseen event resolution time.

Pay attention that when travelling we get anxious not when we are moving normally, but when we are stopped or looking for the right way. Then we start looking at the clock and, if necessary, call to inform that we are late.

The project execution situation is similar, but more complicated. The delivery time depends on the work execution time under normal conditions, plus the time the work spends waiting for something, plus the unforeseen events resolution time.

Project execution time = Work execution time + Waiting time + Unforeseen events resolution time

You can substitute project execution by product development or service execution; the equation remains valid.

Waiting in projects and services is typically caused by other tasks or projects that are carried out in parallel, by approvals, because another team is busy and cannot continue the work immediately, or by waiting for a supplier or the client himself.

Unforeseen events also occur in projects and services. For example, a person or a team is planned to be involved, but when their job is ready to start, they are not available. It also happens that an initial solution happens to be inappropriate, and an alternative has to be found.

Treat project execution as a journey. Control the time that the work is stopped (blocked), moves slowly or is affected by an unforeseen event.

The metrics that help you control the project and service execution time and put an end to delays are called flow-related metrics.

Flow-related metrics

The following image visualizes the different flow-related metrics:

System lead time –the time that from the moment you start working on a work item until the moment it is delivered to its customer. This time includes the waiting time.

Customer lead time – the time from the moment when the customer has placed the work order until the moment when they receive it.

Blockage time – the time that the work item is stopped by some impediment in the workflow.

Take notes of the blockage causes, so that you can analyze them and understand their impact on the project and service execution times. This will help you define effective actions to reduce delays.

Queueing time – the time the work item is waiting for a person at the next step in the process to be able to do it.

The most effective way to take this metric is by configuring your tool so that it collects the data automatically.

Delivery rate (Performance; Throughput) – the number of work items completed for a period of time. Measure the delivery rate by type of work so that you can analyze your delivery capacity.

Work in Progress (WIP) – the number of work items in process.

Following the example of traffic, the WIP corresponds to the number of vehicles (motorcycles, cars, trucks and extra long vehicles) on the road.

The WIP strongly conditions the execution time of projects and services. Therefore, it is key to control it. However, this is perhaps the most difficult practice for the organizations.

The Little’s Law describes the relationships between Lead Time, Work in Process, and Delivery Rate.

Nowadays, companies are looking for greater predictability and short delivery times for their products and services. Flow-related metrics are your means to identify causes for delays and define relevant actions. Use them.

What to do if you still have to give a specific date or delivery time? – Understand the range of variability of your delivery time and respond by evaluating the risk of not meeting the given deadline.

We will talk about this in another blog post.


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

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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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How to integrate PMBOK processes with Kanban practices for greater project success

Project management is challenging because it requires keeping an eye on and taking fast decisions about many aspects of your endeavor: time, costs, quality, resources, stakeholders, suppliers, etc. In today’s rapidly changing business environment running large and complex projects often becomes a hard job. Gartner highlights the importance of adopting an agile approach to project and portfolio management as well as the development of enterprise agility.  PMI reports that executive leaders emphasize the need to develop the skills of the project managers and the maturity of the entire organization.

It is a widely spread myth that the Kanban method is appropriate for managing services but not for projects. Our experience, however, has demonstrated the opposite.

In this post I explain what which Kanban practices, integrated with PMBOK processes have allowed our customers to cope with the common challenges in project management. They can help you too to resolve problems such as project delays, extra costs, conflicting or missing priorities, lack of alignment between project teams, stakeholders and suppliers, ineffective communication, etc.

Furthermore, using the Kanban Maturity Model will help you develop a culture of transparency, respect, focus on customer value and alignment around business purpose. Applying the systems thinking approach to managing work allows you to address complexity in a more informed and competent manner and effectively identify improvements.  Your entire organization grows in adaptability and resilienece.

In the table bellow you can find the Kanban practices that can be used together with other practices in the PMBOK knowledge areas to significantly improve the results of your projects.

Knowledge area Appropriate Kanban practices: Gains:
Project Integration Management
  • Visualize and manage processes and work by means of interconnected kanban systems
  • Collect and analyze workflow and process capability related data
  • Manage workflow
  • Simple consolidation and coordination during projects
  • Fast and up-to-date information about the status of project work
  • Effective project tracking, and reviewing
  • Clear priorities and alignment
  • Informed and quick decision making about resource allocation, prioritizing, managing stakeholder expectations and meeting requirements
  • Continuous and sustainable workflow; optimal utilization of organization’s capacity
Project Scope Management
  • Use real options thinking and an upstream kanban board to manage the process of collecting requirements, defining, and validating project scope and the changes to it
  • Confidence that requirements definitions are completed and communicated on time and meet the criteria for pulling them into the delivery kanban system for further development and implementation
Project Time Management
  • Use explicit policies for managing project work through the network of kanban systems
  • Visualize the workflow, i.e., the stages/activities of developing project work types
  • Use flow-related measures such as lead time per work type, process capability and work in process, including in queues
  • Identify impediments in the processes and recognize deviations and risks for on time delivery
  • Pragmatic planning of schedule management
  • Simpler, faster, and little effort- consuming monitoring and control of project activities
  • More realistic duration estimates
  • Higher project predictability
  • Faster delivery (reduced delays), lower overhead
  • Ability to take fast corrective and preventive actions to minimize the adverse impact of impediments on project success
Project Quality Management
  • Use explicit policies for managing rework as well as criteria for accepting and completing work
  • Analyze blockers and identify sources of delay; Do flow-related data and process capability analysis
  • Identify problematic policies
  • Define actions to improve the flow of work and the customer satisfaction
  • Consistent process quality
  • Higher process efficiency; reduction of the waste of type muri, mura, muda
  • Stronger skills in identifying improvements and conducting continuous process improvement activities in the organization
  • Higher quality of project results; Increased customer satisfaction
Project Resource Management
  • Use kanban boards and explicit policies for managing teamwork



  • Transparency, improved interactions, and more collaboration among team members; Higher trust
  • Greater individual’s skills and competences
  • Greater project team performance; higher team morale, motivation, and satisfaction with accomplishing project objectives
Project Communication Management
  • Use kanban boards to communicate the status of work, deliverables, team workload, impediments in the workflow as well as risks.
  • Use conclusions from data analysis
  • Conduct Kanban cadences (Implement feedback loops)
  • Simple way to an effective and streamlined communication
  • Sustainable rhythm of delivery
  • Alignment between the participating project teams, stakeholders, and suppliers
Project Risk Management
  • Get deeper understanding of the process capability and sources of delay
  • Get deeper understanding of customer demand (project requirements)
  • Use real data and facts about your projects, solutions, processes, customer, and other relevant factors to evaluate risk profiles
  • Ability to cut the materialization of the majority of the risks, i.e., the recurrent problems
  • Stronger abilities to define preventive actions and cope with uncertainty
  • Establishing a comprehensive, concrete, and meaningful framework for managing risks
  • Clear priorities
  • Proactive risk management
Project Procurement Management
  • Use a kanban board and practices to manage your procurement process
  • Consistent and efficient procurement process
Project Stakeholders Management
  • Use Kanban practices for visualizing and managing stakeholder’s engagements
  • Conduct regular Kanban meetings with the stakeholders
  • Straightforward communication
  • Fast feedback about issues related to stakeholder’s expectations

At Berriprocess Agility we are working actively to develop guidelines for Kanban Project and Portfolio Management. We use the evolutionary approach of the Kanban Maturity Model to enable the development of enterprise agility of project organizations. Download our poster here. Have a look at the steps you can take to upgrade your project management methodology.

Let me know your thoughts and experience.

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


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