Golden cards or how to do break out the flow for one day

I would love to do $something but my backlog is packed…

In my team, we are using kanban to manage our workflow. We are quite an operational team, so this fits us very well.

One point of frustration is that we do not get to chose our work. We do have our own long term projects, of course, but most of our work is operational depending on what our customers need. There is a lot to do, the pace is very high, so we never are out of tasks. Sometimes, though, something is nagging us. What if we were trying out this cool new tool? What if I could spend one day trying to answer a question based on our dataset? What if I have an idea with great potential but not immediate apparent business value?

This kind of things do not have a spot in our workflow, already packed.

We tried to setup hackathons, but this is quite tricky, at this mostly implies that the whole team must do it at the same time, whereas we do not have the same pressure or even time habits. By experience, it did not work out so well.

That’s why we introduced Golden Cards.

Golden Cards

Each team member gets 2 cards per month. When they play one of their card, for one day they are allowed to work on whatever they wish, diverting all non-emergency work to the other team members.

Effectively, this give us 10% of our time to do something we, as individual or as a team if many of us play a card together, want to do.

What is the expected outcome?

  • A direct effect was to make the team member happy, by giving them an interesting option.
  • Maybe one of us will build the Next Big Thing.
  • It already allowed some of us to block a day to learn new skills, which in the long run will be helpful, but the time was never quite right to do it.

Feedback

We are using golden cars since only one month.

So far, the team increased their knowledge and took time time to check out a new job scheduler. The feedback is very positive, if only because it makes the team members happy. Technically, our backend setup is a bit saner now, and will keep improving.

Having the opportunity to say ‘no’ to (almost) every request during one day is very liberating, and the day always feel like it was well used.

One thing to note is that it is worth blocking your calendar for the day, to make sure you do not end up in unwanted meetings.

So how does a golden card look like?

I am glad you asked.

A lot of us play Magic the Gathering, so here is what we ended up with, courtesy of Magic Card Maker.

Golden Card

Golden Card

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