Lean / Kanban Case Study

This case-study is about the introduction of a Lean approach for the maintenance of a core-system at a large Swiss Bank. It resulted in faster cheaper deliveries with higher quality, requiring fewer people with total transparency.

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Despite the fact that the core-trading platform had been in use for a number of years, new features were still being implemented. Yet it was taking longer and longer to get them done. This was due to a number of reasons. First and foremost was the reduction in staff due to the financial downturn but also because of a growing mountain of “technical debt” – just keeping the system running well was taking more and more effort.

When resolving technical debt, the Time-to-Market from problem reporting to problem resolution was in excess of 60 days. Even then, fixes were often not as expected and the new problem added to the list, taking yet another 60 days.

For the team it was obvious that this was a frustrating experience. They were also complaining about the context switching between building new features and fixing defects. They also wanted to adopt the popular Agile method Scrum.

So, to reduce the context switching, the Management team had already decided to create a dedicated Scrum team to address the technical debt and new issues. The intention was also to enable know-how transfer within the new team.

What was Done

Kanban-BoardThe first step was to convince senior management and the program manager that Scrum was actually not the most appropriate technique; but rather Kanban.

The team was then trained in Kanban techniques. Focus was given to the team leader as he would track impediments, run the stand-ups & retrospectives, monitor the throughput of the team and measure the progress of the initiative.

Once the team had modelled the process and the first tickets were identified, the team could work. Daily Stand-ups were observed and the team’s interactions coached. The initial retrospectives were also facilitated with responsibility slowly handed over to the team leader.

Throughout this period, impediments were logged, managed and resolved with success measurements identified and tracked.

High-level Timeframe

The whole engagement was spread over a period of three months. The first month was the most intense with all the training and set up. The second month was periodic coaching. The final month was fine-tuning.

The Realized Benefits after Just Three Months

The introduction of Kanban resulted in the following benefits:

  • Quicker Time-to-Market, delivery was reduced from 60+ to 13 days.
  • Improved quality because when something was not correct, it was clear why due to the direct face-to-face communication and quickly resolved. 35+ impediments were identified, of which only three were outside the authority of the team. The team took responsibility for resolving their own impediments, enabling continuous improvement.
  • Bottlenecks identified. In fact they often moved, even during the week.
  • The real process was modeled and later improved when the team felt it was necessary, thus allowing flexibility by giving the team autonomy to adjust to new circumstances.
  • Full transparency on status to such an extent that “the business” could be pro-actively informed of the status before they asked.
  • Priorities were clear yet flexible as they could be changed many times per day, if necessary.
  • Immediate elimination of all effort associated with priority agreement, estimating, scoping and planning. Saving CHF 50k per annum.

Perhaps the most interesting result was that other non-Kanban members of the project wanted to adopt Kanban for their own work, as they too observed the benefits.

About the Client

The client wishes to remain anonymous. However, they are very willing to take a reference telephone call. Please let us know and we will organise it for you.