If your organization’s definition of "defect" makes this too hard, then think of it as rework demand.

Because we get to pay for making defects and then pay again to fix them, we use the Kanban board to make defect demand visible using a different color of sticky note. We use orange stickies to differentiate defect demand from value demand (requirements).

The different color card for defects becomes explicit and visual input to iteration planning, prioritizing and estimating the effort involved to fix defect demand.

Unlike a bug tracking program to track courseware defects, the Kanban board makes the amount of defects visible to all. When you zoom out on virtual Kanban tools or step back on whiteboard Kanban boards, the number of orange sticky notes tells a story. It also gives insights into how differently both parties understood the desired solution.

You can quickly see the visual proportion of orange defect stickies for demand as compared to the colors used for value demand. Some management groups will also ask for a pie chart with defect/rework percentage and value demand percentage.

In some virtual Kanban systems, we use a specific Kanban board lane (a horizontal swim lane like in a swimming pool) for defect tracking if the process steps (vertical columns on the Kanban board) are different from the original task. In those virtual Kanbans that don’t allow lanes, the color still gives a visual indicator of the demand types.

Noting the defect arrival rate (the rate at which defects are discovered) can provide insight into the likelihood of making the target dates.

Defects can also be an opportunity to learn how to improve the process and prevent bigger defects.

Don’t treat defects as negative things to be avoided or people may be less likely to disclose them and may waste too much time on certain tasks in an attempt to avoid mistakes. If they cover their mistakes earlier in the process and you don’t catch them until later, it will cost more to fix them. Better to find out earlier and fix it before more effort is spent. Consider defects as part of the process and fix them rather than focusing on where blame should be assigned. You’ll deliver faster this way. If defect counts drop then lead time drops too.

We also add defect cards when stakeholders email a comment. This gets it into the visual management system and out of the hidden email system. Virtual Kanban cards also provide the audit trail of when the card entered and left each process work step in the event an audit is necessary.

The virtual Kanban board helps us gather the metrics on rework rate of discovery and rework resolution.

This tracking of defect demand is especially important for customers who have far more than expected rework. It provides data with which you can address the situation with the customer stakeholders and your leadership.


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