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My Personal Kanban 2.0

I commonly get asked what I personally use to manage my work. The answer is almost too simple. I use a Personal Kanban. Now, I’m no efficiency guru. I’m no expert on Kanban. I just need a simple system that satisfies a few requirements and makes sense to me.

Personal Kanban

  1. I need something visual to combat my ADD.
  2. I need something that visually captures all of my Backlog of work.
  3. I need something that helps me visualize what Work is In Progress.
  4. I need something that allows me (and others) to see what got Done this week.

Now, I’ve been using task boards for probably half a decade now. When you have that one stakeholder who cruises by your office or cube (constantly) and asks what you’re working on, you can point at the wall and not even look up from you monitor. The board proves its worth just by cutting down on those people interrupting your day.  After a while, people get used to knowing what’s going on and appreciate the transparency.  It’s strange that I need to point that out.  Who benefits by not embracing transparency?  That may be a question left to the comments.

The key difference between a Kanban board and a regular task board is a column limiting your work in progress.  My first exposure to this was from a Scrum Master training session being led by Sanjiv Augustine. Sanjiv displayed a PowerPoint slide of what appeared to be a Los Angeles freeway.  During rush-hour, the amount of vehicles coming onto the freeway are limited (by on-ramp lights).  This attempt to control the volume of traffic flow onto the freeway allows vehicles already on the freeway to move at a faster pace and in turn exit the freeway.  This visual freeway analogy was like a light bulb moment for me.  When I got back to the office and began limiting my Work In Progress (WIP), I did indeed increase my delivery rate.  The days of multitasking are now in my past!

Soon after I started using a Kanban, I met Jim Benson of Modus Cooperandi.  I would describe Jim as a Kanban Sensei.  If you ever want to know more about Kanbans, Jim’s your man.  Go check out the  Personal Kanban website.  Though Kanban is kind of a background business process to me, I still check out the site from time to time to see how others are using Kanban.

To wrap this up, there’s only one “tech” tool I use to bridge the gap between my home and office.  It’s call AgileZen.  AgileZen is a Kanban web application.  Though I have all of my work work on my Kanban board at the office, my wife would frown on seeing a wall of post-it notes next to my desk at home.  So, I use AgileZen to manage both my personal and work tasks while away from the office.  Some people may choose to just use the electronic version.  I just can’t let go of the satisfaction of moving a post-it note from WIP to Done.

Graphic: Pictofigo

About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of Enterprise Engagements at LeadingAgile. I'm super focused on results. But I also take the hand waving out of organizational transformations. I come from a traditional PM background but I don't give points for stuff done behind the scenes. The only thing that counts is what you get done and delivered. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon)

16 Responses to “My Personal Kanban 2.0”

  1. September 8, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Your facilities manager’s refusal to let you use low tech tools… well you can’t stand for it Derek! Get a white board for your home office. A big one!

    • Derek Huether
      September 8, 2010 at 4:30 am

      Ha! Craig, if given the choice, I would paint the wall with whiteboard paint. I would cover it with a combination of a big Kanban and mindmaps. Then again, I’ve learn to pick my battles. Perhaps I could just put a big frame on it and call it modern art?

      • LameCEO
        April 11, 2011 at 1:33 am

        you gave me a good idea for my office! XD

        • Anonymous
          April 11, 2011 at 1:35 am

          Glad I could help!

  2. September 7, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Your facilities manager’s refusal to let you use low tech tools… well you can’t stand for it Derek! Get a white board for your home office. A big one!

    • Derek Huether
      September 7, 2010 at 9:30 pm

      Ha! Craig, if given the choice, I would paint the wall with whiteboard paint. I would cover it with a combination of a big Kanban and mindmaps. Then again, I’ve learn to pick my battles. Perhaps I could just put a big frame on it and call it modern art?

  3. September 10, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Awesome to hear you are using Kanban, Derek. I just started getting into it a few months ago and love it! I have a personal Kanban board for both my pmStudent and day job offices, and for my teams. Love it!

    • Derek Huether
      September 10, 2010 at 8:32 pm

      Yep, I do love Kanban! I just see it as an evolution from the standard task board that I was originally using. It was amazing what happened when I started to limit my work in progress.

  4. September 10, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Awesome to hear you are using Kanban, Derek. I just started getting into it a few months ago and love it! I have a personal Kanban board for both my pmStudent and day job offices, and for my teams. Love it!

    • Derek Huether
      September 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm

      Yep, I do love Kanban! I just see it as an evolution from the standard task board that I was originally using. It was amazing what happened when I started to limit my work in progress.

  5. Tausha Bogard
    November 11, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Im new to the world of PM and working towards earning my PMP certification. Your site is the very first one that I found helpful… THANK U for the FREE templates and your passion for PM is infectious. It can be a little intimidating for a newbie. Any recommendations for PM management software??

    • Anonymous
      November 11, 2010 at 1:56 pm

      Tausha, I’m very glad you’ve found my blog helpful. Project Management is what we make of it and I do what I can to help others understand it. Remember to use the templates to help satisfy your needs. Don’t be trapped by creating unnecessary process in order to use a template. Ask yourself what goal you’ll help meet by using specific templates.

      PM management software also needs to help satisfy a need. It needs to help you reach a goal. I know that’s a vague answer but that’s what I have. Let’s say you’re trying to manage a project. Do you need to be able to visualize the scope promised to the customer? Do you need to see what activities are assigned to you team? All of the different kinds of software satisfy a different need or want. I’ll reach out to you via email and see we can’t identify your needs and narrow this down a little.

      Regards,
      Derek

  6. September 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Why is Modus Cooperandi crossed out?

    • derekhuether
      September 2, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      This is a perfect example of what happens when technology goes unchecked. I’ve had a “link checker” plugin enabled for a while. It aggressively tests links and if it times out, it removes the link tag and then draws a line through the original link text. This plugin has really bit me in the ass. I’ve turned it off but there is no undoing the damage it has done. I have to manually add the links back, whenever I find a post that has the text crossed out.

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