The 3-Color “Modified” Kanban Approach

June 1, 2021

In this blog we will showcase how using a “Modified” Kanban board using 3 colors (Red, Blue, Black) helps to prioritize your problems and make sure that you focus only on those that really matter to your customer. We (My Support team and I) came up with this method ourselves and we have found it really useful in our day-to-day activities. It may not be totally new, but it was new for us.

When we are resolving issues for the customer, the primary thing that comes to our mind is the prioritization of issues. Which problems should we resolve first? Obviously, if you ask your users, then everyone will want you to resolve their issue before anyone else’s. That may be okay for the users but it doesn’t help you.

As per Scrum/Agile, the Product Owner is the one who will refine and prioritize the Product backlog for you. If you are already doing Agile/Scrum then your job is very much simplified. You already have a PO, who is going to direct the team on what needs to be taken up. But what if you are not Agile, and are still stuck with the old Waterfall method of doing things? That’s still okay, there is a solution for this too.

The main point is you need to identify a person either from your team or your customer’s team who can act as the Product Owner for you. In such a situation, the best possible person who can act as the PO is someone senior from the customer’s business team who normally drives the things at their end; around the application. For example in our case, there is a senior director who will tell us daily what needs to be done or fixed on priority.

Once you have identified a PO, then all you need to do is set up a 15-minute meeting with him daily explaining to him the tasks to be done. This includes changing the priority of the items, or taking up high-priority items that have come in during the day; before completing anything that is pending.

But what if you don’t have access to such a person, either in your team or from the customer’s side? There is a solution for that as well. You can decide the priority of all the issues by yourself. It can be done in a table in an Excel file or on a Wiki page. Let’s say you have 5 modules in your application (Obviously this is a very simplified view, there will be multiple modules in any given application).

In Stage 1, do these steps below:

  1. List down all the modules in the column headings. This will give you an idea of how modular the application is and how many possible areas are there which could go wrong.
  2. List down all the issues in each of the modules. This is simply a list. It will give a clear picture of the number of issues in each part of the system.
  3. Using a simple color code of 3 colors, you can mark the different problems. For example, RED could be a high priority or escalated tickets. Use BLUE color for a specific user(s) from your customer’s team. Use BLACK or GREEN to denote normal or low priority requests.

So at the end of Stage 1, your table should look somewhat similar to the one shown in the picture.

Now in Stage 2, simply sort the columns according to the number of issues that are present.

  1. Sort the columns according to the count of issues. This will give a “Triangle” which tapers towards the right.
  2. Sort the issues according to the color codes that we have defined. For example, RED will come before BLUE which will come before BLACK.

This is just one way of prioritizing issues. We have found this incredibly useful to quickly fix the maximum number of problems in the shortest time possible. For example, looking at the picture after Stage 2, I now know that Module 3 and Module 1 have the maximum issues in the application and also 3 high-priority items. This helps me to understand where to focus my attention more.

Thus, in two stages and probably two or three steps, you now know which issues need to be tackled on the highest priority. You also know which part of the system has the maximum problems, so you need to focus on that part/module in order to provide maximum value addition to your customer. So, by using the “Modified” Kanban board before the actual Kanban board, to track and close issues. Once you know what needs fixing, this can be used as an input to the actual Kanban board to track the status from “Pending” to “Work In Progress” to “Closed”.

There can be N number of ways to prioritize items that you need to fix. This is just one way of doing the thing. If you have used any other way or know of something which is better than this method, do leave a comment on the post or on my LinkedIn post.

About The Author

This blog has been written by Ketan Gaydhani, Technical Project Manager at IVL Global. With 14+ years of working experience in Application Support, he is actively involved in solving functional and technical problems for the customers so that they can have a seamless experience with the application. His area of interest includes interacting with customers to understand their business so that their user experience about the application can be delightful and their business challenges can be solved to increase their revenue stream.