Thursday, February 26, 2015

When Process Junkies Are Parents - Personal Kanban

It all started a fine Thursday evening when my wife and I got home. Our daughter was in trouble with her grades and was falling behind on her schoolwork. We sat down and started reviewing where she stood with everything and what problems she was having and quickly figured out the issues. She had too many things going on at the same time. She was not sure about what to prioritize. There was no certainty whether the items she believed to be done, were actually completed.

Earlier in the day there was a Kanban training for a team that I was helping conduct and a lot of the issues/solutions we were talking about in the training seemed to be similar to the ones that we were talking about with our daughter. My wife and I, both running Kanban teams, we had an obvious solution to all problems - "You need a Kanban board". The following was the result.

Miranda(my daughter) seems to love it. Her WIP limit on the Doing column is 2. This helps her concentrate on fewer items at a time and also helps her pull the most urgent ones forward. Everything goes through a parent sign-off before it is considered closed. This helps ensure that everything that we consider done has been reviewed for completeness and quality. Miranda gets a constant visualization of her progress on tasks and so do we. There is no mis-communication on whether a task was finished or not.

Watching Miranda achieve productivity with her board made me think of my own problems with prioritization of work items. I have numerous things pushed onto my backlog and I try to get too many of them done at the same time. The solution again was obvious - I needed my own board. I would love a physical board, but since I work on items both at the office and at work, that was not going to work. Physical boards are great information radiators(exactly what Miranda needed), but are just too cumbersome to carry around if you need them in two places. So, I found an app that worked with my favourite browser, Chrome - Kanban-chi and have been using it since. As you can see this post is, as of right now in my Doing column.

I have to say, it has come the full circle. From the things I have learned working with my team to what Dan Vacanti,  Mike Longin and myself talk about in Kanban training to the working needs of my daughter back to how I can best manage my work. Sometimes, it seems, we know the answers, it just takes questions that are closer to home to help see the right context. I am sure I will still have some issues managing flow on my work items, but making consistent progress should not be a problem. I recommend personal Kanban to anyone who is willing to give it a try. If it can work for a 20-things-thrown-at-me-a-day-middle-manager and for a school going teenager, it can work for anybody. Also having a Unicorn and a couple of Pandas(I think thats what they are) drawn on your board helps as well.