Tekes: Kanban pilot

Tekes’s need to reform

Tekes is a Finnish funding agency for innovation and technology. Tekes has an ongoing Lean User Experience project, also known as LUX, which aims to improve the customer experience using lean processes. The procedures in Tekes have become more complex, which has sparked a need to reform. The goal is to make the whole organization more agile.

As a part of the LUX project, a Kanban pilot was ordered from Codento for Tekes’s IT Department. Kanban is an agile method for work management with an emphasis on work visualization, with smooth and continuous workflows. Task boards are used to help team members see the outstanding tasks.

The purpose of the pilot was to test whether the Kanban method is suitable for Tekes. Two continuous development teams from the same service portfolio were chosen to take part in the pilot.

Kanban proved to be a great method for Tekes. “The teams that participated in the pilot had a positive experience of it,” explained Harri Eskola, Tekes’s IT Department Manager. “Through the LUX project, we were also piloting Kanban for the whole organization. The pilot has stirred up quite a bit of excitement here in Tekes,” he continued.

Towards change with workshops

Eskola decided to order the pilot from Codento based on earlier, positive experiences of being coached by Codento in agile methodologies. The Kanban pilot was facilitated by Karoliina Luoto and Codento Certified Partner Antti Kirjavainen from Flowa. The pilot started with a workshop, where our consultants revisited the rules of Kanban with the team members and agreed on what would be included in the pilot.

In the following workshops, the focus was on building the actual boards that are typical for Kanban. These helped the team members to visualize their tasks. The team members searched all of the open tasks with the help of Luoto and Kirjavainen. They then decided how to label each task and put it on a board.

“It was so great to see the obvious, tremendous enthusiasm in the teams when these vague tasks that were all over the place suddenly became concrete, colorful labels on a physical board,” Karoliina Luoto, Codento’s Senior Consultant, said of the feeling about the first workshops.

Next, there were a couple of operations review workshops where the consultants analyzed with the team members how the choices made in the earlier workshops were working and what needed to be developed further. At the end of the pilot, the teams summarized what they had learned. They also introduced the pilot’s outcome to the rest of Tekes’s IT team.

“It seems to me that the pilot made the team members feel better and brought joy to their work. It was fun to realize how easily I could help them a lot as a coach,” Luoto smiled.

“For me this has been an interesting and inspiring project. It has been easy to talk about it to others in an inspiring way, as well. With this pilot we created a new, sensible way to operate,” said Eskola.

Harri Eskola using a Kanban board.
Harri Eskola using a Kanban board.

The right coach in the right place

There had been an attempt to start a Kanban pilot earlier at Tekes but the staff at Tekes could not match their schedules with that of the previous consultant. Tekes was able to cooperate easily with Codento. “I sought the opinions of our team members, and they were very happy with the pilot. They also felt that Luoto was able to inspire them and was just the right coach for this project,” Escola explained. So, finally, would Eskola recommend Codento to his colleagues? “For coaching on agile methodologies, yes.”