Monday, March 14, 2011

Personal Kanban Kaizen - It's all Digital

In two earlier posts I wrote about the benefits of a personal kanban and showed my first kanban system. One of the weaknesses of this board was the lack of portability of the system with the amount time I spend out of the office.  So I have created digital personal kanban system.

LeanKit Kanban allows you to create a virtual kanban system online.   Their software makes it easy to customize your own kanban board, add color, dates, and more.  They offer several pricing options to meet all your needs from personal to team editions.  The free personal option only allows you to create one kanban board.

Here is the kanban board I made to manage my tasks.

The layout is pretty simple.  If you remember my previous non-digital board I used the following rules to create my personal kanban:

1) Establish Your Value Stream – The flow of work I chose was Backlog, This Week, Today, and Done.

2) Establish Your Backlog – I put every task onto a post-it-note, if the task had a due date I put that on the note as well.

3) Establish Your WIP Limit – I limited my Today column to 3 and therefore limited my This Week column to 15

4) Begin to Pull – As I work on the Today column I pull new tasks into Today.

The built in visuals are a great feature of this kanban.  The color coding helps me manage all aspects of my life in one place.  I use the colors to organize the following grouping of tasks:

Tan - work related tasks: projects, kaizen events, data analysis
Green - personal tasks: kids activities, home projects
Blue - A Lean Journey Blog tasks:  new posts, website maintenance
Red - AME tasks: new workshops, social media posting

If tasks are date sensitive that can be added to the the card and a visual date shows in the bottom right of the card.  When you move the cursor over the task the date is visible.  The date starts out yellow and then turns red if your task is behind.  You can see I was behind a couple on my board.

The software offers a number of analytics to help you understand how well you perform.  I have not really used this information yet to improve my system but it is there.

As I mentioned in the previous system I use this for tasks that take about 1-2 hours.  For smaller tasks I also use a digital system.  I use Google Tasks which is a simple To Do List.  I prefer this over other electronic To Do Lists for the following reasons:
1) It is simple to use.
2) It integrates with my calendar Google Calendar.
3) It is available on my Android phone.
4) I have created 4 lists which match the categories of my Kanban board.

Here is what is looks like in my calendar (which is also color coded), on far right side is the tasks.  There is a tasks shown due on Tue 3/8 for example.

So how do I make this all work. Well, at the end of each day I spend about 15 minutes planning for the next day. It is scheduled on my calendar. I start with the kanban board by looking at what i completed today. Then I look at the This Week area and move 3 items I need to do tomorrow into the Today column. At the end of the week I plan the following week by looking at my backlog of tasks. Also, in this 15 minutes I look at my Google tasks (generally on my phone) and update the list. I pick 3 things I must do the next day and prioritize them as such. As I go through the day i will add tasks to the tasks and kanban board as they come up. This help me keep from losing those thoughts. Since it is digital it only takes a few seconds.

My most productive time is in the morning and generally my most available.  I start with my kanban tasks (at least the first one) and then move to the Google tasks.  I should mention I generally don't check email first thing.  I tend to look at email only 3-4 times per day.  This usually includes a visit to facebook and twitter since I manage several social channels.  I eat lunch in the office most days and use this time to visit all those blogs I highlight once a month.  Learning is a great way to spend my lunch time.

This system isn't perfect but seems to work for me. Hopefully it makse you think about your productivity. In the spirit of continuous improvement and continuous learning share your personal productivity system and advice in the comments here. 

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  1. Thanks for more great info on personal kanbans. I read your last post and then established my own post-it kanban. Since I don't have to travel for work it works pretty well for me. I have "To-Do" (a backlog), This Week (about 6-10 tasks, though this is more like "On-Deck" for me), "Today" (max is 4), 'Done' and "waiting" for tasks that I am waiting on someone else to continue with. As I walk around my company, I carry a clipboard w/my leader standard work on it. This has room for notes which I write down. Then when I return to my desk each time, I transfer any notes to post-it tasks as needed.

    This has been really nice for me because I move all my completed post-its to a 3-ring binder w/scrap paper. Then at my performance review I can show my supervisor what I've done.

  2. Thanks for sharing your system. I especially like the way you keep your accomplishments. I will have to consider how to incorporate this in my system.

  3. I love seeing your implementation of personal kanban. I am considering something similar for myself, but feel I would separate work and personal. Not sure yet. Do you find two electronic systems to be cumbersome?

  4. Thanks for your whole series of posts on PK, Tim. It's interesting to think through the pro's and con's of manual/analog and digital/electronic for these sorts of practices in the Lean approach.

  5. Trust me Leansimulation I have tried to separate work and everything else. For me, it took to much effort. That was an early failure I had. One system at work one at home. Couldn't see the other from different locations. I really like combining it to one area. It is simple. As you can see I had to color code to differentiate. I use this color coding with everything. The other reason for combining is you usually on get one account profile with many of these electronic tools (outside of Social Media).

  6. I've been using LeanKitKanban for about a month now. It's been great. I loved managing my to-do list similarly on a white board, but I travel so much I was always snapping a picture of it before I left and it wasn't convenient.

    Another one I came across per a recommendation was, which I actually like better and will be using to manage individual projects (the LeanKitKanban one will be my higher level items).

  7. Also, Corey Ladas talks about his personal board here:

    He adds "swim lanes" (he doesn't call them that, can't remember what he uses) which I use as well, which effectively define different "bandwidth" areas (? not sure that's a good term). Essentially, if a swim lane is "marketing" oriented (or for yours, Tim, it could be "Personal items"), you should only have one task active in that queue/lane at a time.

  8. Scott, Thanks for sharing I will have to consider this for my next improvement.

  9. Tim, great post and this is quickly becoming normal operating rhythm for me. I am still figuring out how to effectively manage work in progress? Any tips?

  10. Managing the backlog is one thing but managing the WIP is really about limiting. Just like in all processes you are trying to create flow. Less WIP allows you to focus and get the task done. We know multitasking doesn't work. Completing tasks allows you to pull more through increasing productivity.

    How big is your WIP bucket and why don't you think it is working for you?