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Have you ever used agile techniques outside of software development?

I’m working with Leadership Eastside, a Seattle-area organization that trains people from diverse communities to be leaders in their community. I’m using agile techniques to help us organize ourselves and manage projects.

The first project I did for Leadership Eastside was to help them self-organize to move their office. While professional movers would be moving all of the boxes, computers, etc., all of the packing would be done by the staff and volunteers.

When volunteers show up to help, they want to be able to be useful immediately, and they want to feel appreciated. An organization can’t retain volunteers if volunteers show up to help and then they stand around feeling useless. So we needed a system that anyone, even if they were unfamiliar with it, could see what needed to be done, select something to do, do it, and know that they’d accomplished something.

Once the Director created a list of things that needed to be packed, I created a Kanban board, with clear, simple directions on how to use it.

Everyone who came in the office and saw this large, bright Kanban board and information radiator, was awestruck and delighted. It was on the wall in the reception area, so it was the first thing people saw when they stepped in. I heard people say things like, “This is amazing!”, “Wow!”, and “Thank you, Louise!”

Leadership Eastside’s needed to have everything packed and ready by Monday at the end of the day, and they made it with time to spare!

Now, how to handle having a retrospective? I knew it’d be nearly impossible to get all of the staff and volunteers who packed for the move, in the same place at the same time to do a retrospective. So I put up a retrospective board right in the office. It’s got two columns: “Worked Well,” and “Do Differently Next Time.”

As I’m finishing this up, I’m creating a Kanban board to help Leadership Eastside unpack, get things set up, and get back to work as quickly as possible.

The new space is configured a lot differently from the old space. So everyone will be figuring out where things should go, as things are being unpacked! That’s perfect for a flexible, adaptive framework, supported by a well-structured Kanban board.

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