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Kanban: Working à la Carte

Some things are so simple, it's a wonder that anyone has to explain them at all. Some ideas are so flat-out useful, it makes you wonder why you didn't think of them yourself. Kanban is both of these - and more.


Kanban at Jimdo


At Jimdo, we were searching for a tool to structure our work in a way to make everything more transparent, which is fairly important since there are over 70 of us already - all doing a lot of different things. Between development tasks and other points on the agenda, it was getting too easy to lose track of the whole picture. We wanted to find a way to organize and optimize our work without putting pressure on people, but rather by visualizing everything. Most of all, whatever method we chose would have to fit in with the Jimdo spirit.


The solution: Kanban

Kanban is a visual approach to process management - the word means 'card' in Japanese. In fact, cards are at the core of the Kanban method. By visualizing the work of each individual person, an organization protects itself from too much work-in-progress. The three main steps in the Kanban method are:


  • Visualize the workflow (by printing each task on index cards)
  • Limit WIP
  • Optimize the flow


Leading the horse to water

Kanban started in the car factories of Toyota in the 1940s where it helped the company implement just in time production methods. Much later, David Anderson adapted Kanban for use in software development. Here at Jimdo, though, it's not just the development team that uses Kanban: it's every team. The real challenge in adopting a technique like Kanban at Jimdo is getting people to actively use it.


  • Every team at Jimdo has a magnet whiteboard like the one in the video - and all tasks and 'to-dos' are fastened on it. We printed out 'face magnets' for every team member so it's easy to see at a glance who owns each ticket. Plus, it makes the whiteboards look nicer ;-).


  • No technical knowledge is required: we reduced the barrier for adoption by hacking a print app to make it super easy to print out tickets.


  • Full team meetings are held in front of the whiteboard, and moderators change every week. Progress is discussed, and tickets are moved from one stage to the next.


  • We also have a 'master Kanban wall', and when a ticket hits the finish line here, participating teams get to open a present. Just another little incentive to make the process more enjoyable.


And it works!

Working with Kanban has already made processes clearer and more transparent here: because everyone can see what each person is working on at any given time. Our communication has improved, too, for the simple reason that by printing out a Kanban ticket and handing it over to the new owner, a certain amount of face-to-face contact is unavoidable. If there's explaining that needs to be done it can solved right away. Besides, it is easier to get someone excited about the next feature or change request if you're excited yourself - which is much harder to do in an email.


We still have some tweaking to be done, but one thing is already clear: Kanban is right for us. And we've already garnered some respect from high places: after she watched our Kanban video, David Anderson's assistant dropped by the Jimdo office. She was excited with our way of doing Kanban here.


Just this week Sönke and I had a great opportunity to explain how Kanban works at Jimdo - this time at the first ever Kanban Lean Conference in Munich (October 17-18). It was an honor to be invited! For anyone interested in reading more about Jimdo and Kanban, here are the slides from our presentation in Munich:




Fridtjof Detzner

Fridtjof Detzner

Co-founder at Jimdo


Fridtjof and Christian started their first company,, while they were still in school. Fridtjof went on to found another company with Christian and Matthias, which evolved into Jimdo in 2007. When Fridtjof is not in the office, he likes to mountain bike in the Alps, kite surf, and dream up other extremely frightening things he can try.