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Kaizen Backlogs and Boards in Favro

Continuous Improvement in Action

Kaizen is a Japanese word which translates directly to “change for better”. It inherently implies continuous change for the better. In English, it is used to describe a process of continuous improvement. The kaizen philosophy as it applies to business process improvement originated with The Toyota Way, which strives to do many things, including:

  • Improve and humanize the workplace
  • Reduce waste
  • Encourage organization-wide process improvement ideas and experimentation

While at its core kaizen is a mindset, to see tangible benefits requires putting its principles into action. This effort starts by engaging the entire organization at the team level. Agile teams holding regular retrospective meetings often generate many good ideas to improve their processes, quality of output, and work environment. However, all too often, these ideas fall by the wayside in favor of work that directly provides customer value. This shortsightedness can render retrospective meetings useless and have the opposite effect on continuous improvement efforts. Teams will become discouraged that none of their ideas or suggestions ever come to fruition and lose interest. One of the best ways to ensure that retrospective ideas are not forgotten and that those ideas are implemented is with kaizen backlogs (lists) and boards.

Kaizen Backlogs

Each team will ideally have a separate kaizen backlog which is merely a long-term container for all of the ideas generated during retrospectives or kaizen “events”. These improvement ideas are prioritized just as user stories or customer value backlog items are prioritized. This process improvement work is then committed to a kaizen board. For example, a typical Scrum practice is to have the team decide the top three retrospective ideas to be implemented during the next sprint. These ranked improvements are then pulled from the backlog and driven primarily by the Scrum Master during that sprint. Just as with regular backlog items, the results are reviewed during the sprint review.

To create a kaizen backlog (or any backlog) in Favro, click the “+” in the lists area. Once created, it’s as easy as adding your kaizen ideas with “Add card / Add row” or keyboard shortcut “N”.

Team specific kaizen backlog
Team specific kaizen backlog

Kaizen Boards

Kaizen boards are used to make sure that improvement ideas are put into action and to visualize their progress towards completion. The board looks very similar to a kanban board with some version of “To do — Doing — Done” flow. The kaizen board separates the process improvement backlog items from the regular backlog items and allows the team and others in the organization to clearly see what improvements are being made and how they’re tracking towards completion.

To create a kaizen board (or any board) in Favro, click the “+” in the boards area. Once the board is created, add columns with “Add column…” to represent your flow from Selected to Done. Start using the board by pulling cards (drag and drop) from the kaizen backlog to the first column of your kaizen board. It’s a good best practice to keep all of your team specific boards and backlogs in a single Favro collection, providing visibility to the entire team of both process improvement cards and regular backlog item cards on a single screen.

Team specific kaizen board
Team specific kaizen board

Continuous improvement in action

By using Favro to store and implement your continuous improvement ideas in specific backlogs and boards, your teams will not only begin to embrace the kaizen mindset but also trust that their suggestions are taken seriously. This same process can be used at management (program) and executive (portfolio) levels of the organization providing transparency and building company-wide trust, one of the first steps to a true kaizen culture.