My latest post for DMLcentral is up. I’ve been thinking about agile workflows and team productivity a lot recently and, in this post, I attempt to apply it to (formal) education environment. Give it a read and see if you think it works!
Add a ‘Work In Progress’ (WIP) limit to the ‘Doing’ list
Define and use labels effectively
Add attachments and due dates to cards
Collaborate with others
Here’s how to achieve these criteria.
Add WIP limit
Simple. Just edit the title of your list to indicate the maximum number of cards that is allowed in it at any given time. The default is three, but you might experiment to see if this is the right number.
It’s up to you how you use labels. The benefit of using them is that they give an at-a-glance indication on the kind of work you’re doing. The above list is what I’ve settled on for individual projects. These are different when I’m working with others; it’s a negotiation and they may change over time.
Add attachments / due dates
Within each card there’s an option to add an attachment. You can upload direct from your computer, paste a link, or transfer from cloud services. If you upload an image it will by default become the ‘cover’ of your card. You can disable/change this if necessary.
Due dates are important to ensure cards keep moving from left to right on your Kanban board. If you can no longer assign a date you might want a list entitled ‘Stalled’. Assign a due date by going into the card.
Unless you’ve set up an organisation, you need to manually add collaborators to a board via the ‘Menu’. Once they’ve been given access you can add them to cards by clicking on ‘Members’. Their icon will then show up in the bottom-right of the card.
This is a fun exercise that leads to a badge. It also, hopefully, nudges you to use Kanban more effectively. If there’s enough interest I may even create a Kanban Ninja badge!
Create a new board with (at least) three lists: To do, Doing, and Done
Add cards for new actions
Share a screenshot or link to their board being used in practice
If you get stuck, you can always watch the screencast I recorded yesterday!
Not received an Open Badge before? There’s more about the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) here. Once you’ve earned the Kanban 101 badge you’ll be given the option to ‘push’ it to the Mozilla backpack:
I’m using p2pu.org to issue badges as they’ve got a really nice traffic light-based flow for reviewing evidence.
How do decisions get made in your organisation? How does work get done? Do you have agreed workflows? Does innovation happen inevitably or by accident?
The best organisations I’ve worked with have clear processes for how mission-critical things happen. For example, I’ve been part of:
a school with an unequivocal behaviour management and sanctions workflow
a global non-profit where work is based on ‘sprints’ and agile development methodologies
a university and an awarding body with a rigorous approach to issuing qualifications and credentials
Highly productive individuals, teams, and organisations don’t get to that level merely by accident. It happens through hard work on process which, in turn, leads to consistently-great outcomes.
Once you’ve got a strategy (i.e. ‘direction of travel’) and defined workflow (i.e.’milestones along the way’) you’re ready for Kanban:
Kanban is a method for managing knowledge work with an emphasis on just-in-time delivery while not overloading the team members. In this approach, the process, from definition of a task to its delivery to the customer, is displayed for participants to see. Team members pull work from a queue.
I’ve tried a number of ways of adopting a Kanban approach – some of them listed on this wiki page. The one I keep coming back to, however, is Trello. As the video at the top of this post shows, it’s simple but powerful:
Get started in 5 easy steps:
Create a new Trello board.
Create three lists: To Do, Doing, and Done.
Set up tags – anything you want (personally, I use Writing, Editing, Researching, Collaborating, Reviewing, and Planning).
Invite people to your board.
Add cards to the To Do list, ensuring they’ve got tags, have been assigned to people, and have a due date.
Create an Trello ‘organisation’ for all of the boards you share with your colleagues.
Add a couple of additional lists: Stalled (so cards don’t remain on your ‘To Do’ list forever) and Useful links (for information everyone needs to hand).
Attach an image to each card to differentiate them from others.
Change the background colour/image to quickly find the board you’re looking for.
I’m in the midst of introducing a Trello-based Kanban approach in an organisation that’s traditionally relied mostly on meetings and emails to get things done. Having seen a similar approach work so well elsewhere, I’m convinced it will boost productivity and cohesion within/across teams.
Like Clay Shirky, I think that over-optimising your setup and workflow for now can lead to long-term anachronism. He says:
[S]ince every tool switch involves a period of disorientation and sub-optimal use, I have to make myself be willing to bang around with things I don’t understand until I do understand them. This is the opposite of a dream setup; the thing I can least afford is to get things working so perfectly that I don’t notice what’s changing in the environment anymore.
It’s easy to get caught up… in your own area. When you are striving to keep improving and you are getting better and better, you focus on the small improvements, how you are as compared to the next best person. Often it’s easy to forget how far you have come and how valuable it could be to share that journey with someone else. When the thing you are working on is niche it’s easy to forget that others might be treading the same path, or might decide to if only they knew the path existed.
I write my weeknotes both for my own benefit (what I did, when) and for the benefit of others (especially colleagues) who might be interested in my work.
The problem is that these weeknotes don’t explain how I work and how it all fits together. Given that this changes on a regular basis, it’s worth documenting regularly. I’m definitely a believer in the Clay Shirky school of workflow:
I know people who get everything in their work environment just so, but current optimization is long-term anachronism. I’m in the business of weak signal detection, so at the end of every year, I junk a lot of perfectly good habits in favor of awkward new ones.
Before I start, and by way of context, it’s worth saying that this week Mozilla – and the #TeachTheWeb team in particular – has launched Webmaker Training. This is a four-week course to help people learn four strands of related to web literacy and contribution: Exploring, Building, Facilitating, and Connecting. More about that in this blog post.
I’m currently working on Webmaker and Web Literacy badges. This isn’t an easy process – even within the organisation that spawned them! I’m currently looking at ways in which we can ‘breadcrumb’ contribution for participants throughout Webmaker Training so that they end up with a newly-redesigned Webmaker Mentor badge. Behind all that, however, is technology that’s shared across Mozilla and a newly-formed Badge Alliance, cultural differences, various assumptions and experiences, a distributed workforce, and attempts at a co-ordinated visual design. I’m doing my best!
Something that I’m still getting used to in a product-driven environment is the idea of an issue tracker. We use Bugzilla (fugly, but efficient and open-source) and, to a lesser extent, GitHub (closed-source itself but supports working in the open). You can see an example of working in Bugzilla with this ‘bug’ and a similar situation in GitHub with this issue.
Speaking of issue trackers, if you’re interested in implementing one, probably the easiest thing you can do is to set up a Trello board with cards in three columns: To Do, Doing, and Done. At the end of the week, you simply ‘Archive’ everything in the Done column.
(click on image to see live Trello board)
Perhaps once I’m at one with the Matrix (i.e. can use Bugzilla more effectively) I won’t have to use Trello as well, but for now it’s saving my sanity: I just link the Trello card to the relevant bug. You’ll notice that I’ve also added another column for Stalled and References (current). That’s just so I don’t forget stuff. 🙂
The great thing about whatever system you use – Trello, GitHub or Bugzilla – the ideas underlying them are the same.
Anyone can file bugs/issues/tickets
People can opt-in or opt-out of getting updates
Bugs/issues/tickets can be assigned to people
You can link out to relevant resources/context
Bugs/issues/tickets can be closed when done
It takes a bit of a shift in thinking, but I can’t help but think this would benefit every organisation I’ve ever been part of. Imagine, for example, a school where not only staff, but parents and students could file bugs/issues/tickets to make the community stronger? Wow.
Do YOU or your organisation use issue trackers? I’d be interested to find out more. 🙂