My Personal Kanban 2.0

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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

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Ask Derek – Required Experience to take the PMP

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I’m always looking for ways to help others in their quests to be better project managers.  It doesn’t matter if it’s about getting the PMP® certification, getting PDUs, or even finding good tools to make a given task easier.  I field questions from both emails and Twitter.  Today I read an email that was not unlike others I’ve answered directly.  But, I thought others would benefit if I answered publicly.  Here is the content of the email:

I read your article about how the PMP certification is commercialized and an example of a PMP holder hiding behind the credential.  I want to become a good IT Project Manager.  I read the requirements to become a PMP. According to requirements, a person needs 3 years exp before attempting this test. My question is, how can I get exp without a certificate or who would give me a job to get the exp as a project manager and thereby attempt my PMP certification.  Can you please help me set my goals in an orderly fashion so I can ultimately become a good Manager?

Does this sound familiar? It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg.  First, I would like to say the person asking the question made a statement that resonated with me.  I want to become a good IT Project Manager. I really want to help because if they wrote that, they are half way there.  Let’s be clear.  You don’t need to have a PMP to be a good PM. I know very gifted people who do not possess the credential.  I would be a liar if I did not believe the deck is stacked against them.  Companies have bought into the idea that good PMs have PMPs.  But I digress.  Back to the question at hand.

It can be a challenge to become a project manager, if you have no experience.  If you have ever lead a team or managed a task, you have more experience than you give yourself credit for.  PMI will recognize that.  Remember, the PMP is not a test about something you are learning.  The PMP is an exam about what you should already know and do, but categorized within the framework of the PMBOK.  Let’s say you’re a QA Engineer.  I bet you have a lot of experience in the Monitoring & Controlling Process Group and specifically in the Project Quality Management knowledge area.  Document your experience around what you know and do.

In order to qualify to take the PMP exam, you do need to have experience in all 5 Process Groups (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing).  Honestly, you could have 99.9% of your experience in one process group and 1 hour in each of the remaining 4.  PMI doesn’t care.  You just need to document that you have experience in all.  If you want to be a good PM, I would recommend you get exposure to each of the progress groups. Fewer things are as bad as a PM who does not empathize with all of the functional areas or have experience in the different phases of the project lifecycle.

On a practical note, I recommend you engage others in other functional areas of your current project(s).  Offer to help them in some way.  Don’t go in with an ulterior motive.  Honestly, help someone and you’ll get the experience you need as a byproduct.  The PMP should be for someone with overall experience. However, I do know managers in specific functional areas who also hold the credential.  I would recommend, if you want to be a good manager, to become educated through practical experiences and not solely through academia.  You can learn just so much from a book.

Did I answer the question?  Is it a good start?

Please post some comments and let me know.