Kanban: A Universe of Options for Life’s Planning & Organizing Challenges #3

Jim BensonFeatured3 Comments

This is the third post in a guest series, Kanban: A Universe of Options for Life’s Planning & Organizing Challenges by Nadja Schnetzler.

In my practice, the following board has presented itself as the best and most simple way for me to work in a good flow:

6 columns:
To do: Holds the backlog and has no limitation.
Next: The tasks that I have chosen to be most relevant from the backlog at this point.
Meet: A column that holds all the meetings of today and helps me define the WIP limit for the „doing“ column.
Doing: The column with all active tasks (WIP limit 1 to 3 if I work alone).
Waiting for: A column that holds tasks that are not „done“ because something is open (waiting for an answer by a client  for instance). WIP limitation here is three, forcing me to act on open tasks when the WIP limit is reached.
Done: Tasks that are finished.

Showing workflow on a kanban

I use four colors: yellow for normal tasks, red for urgent tasks, green for private tasks and blue for meetings.

My stickies can look very simple on light days and weeks and pretty complex on heavy days and weeks.

 A stickie always contains:
–       A (to me) crystal clear description of the task at hand
–       A deadline (only if there really IS a deadline)

A stickie CAN contain additional information during heavy weeks:
–       estimate of time to complete the task or size of the task ( I go with S, M, L, XL)
–       project name or color (making sure that I work on a good mix of things, not neglecting clients in my portfolio)
–       Priority (1,2,3 points)

Light day task example

A «light day» stickie

          Kanban task for a heavy day of work

A stickie for heavy days

Whatever works!

I think it’s very important that tools are here for people and not that people become slaves of their tools. So, when using kanban and when talking and passing on my humble knowledge, I always find it important to keep an open mind about everything. If I do not feel like using my board today, for instance, I don’t. It hardly ever happens, but in some cases I just want to do a good old fashioned to do list that I can check off, or on other days I just do not want to have the feeling that I need to plan everything meticulously. Also, in terms of how to design a kanban board, the postits or how to have conversations around the board, I usually go with „whatever works!“ If a tool works for people, that is fine. If people start working for the tool, it’s not! In many cases, people notice immediately if something is not working with their board. They notice that tasks do not flow, and they start doing something about it or they come back and ask what they could do. And then we can inspect and adapt. I generally do not tell people „this won’t work“ when they create something that is deviating from kanban „as we know it“. I encourage them to experiment, to explore and to try out. After all, my main interest since 25 years is innovation, is doing things differently, and looking at „old problems“ in new ways.

Nadja Schnetzler was born in Switzerland and spent her childhood in Mexico City. After graduating from High School, she was a founding member of BrainStore, the first Idea Factory in the world. She has a bachelors degree in journalism from renowned “Ringier School of Journalism”. Over the last 25 years, Nadja has led over 600 innovation projects for companies like Nestlé, Siemens, the Swiss Railways, Kraft Foods, BMW, Save the Children, the United Nations or Amnesty International. She is the author of the book “The Ideamachine” (Wiley) and a sought-after speaker and lecturer at various universities.

In 2012, Nadja founded «Word and Deed» with the aim at inspiring organisations, companies, teams and individuals. Word and Deed works in the areas of communication, innovation and collaboration. Kanban has become one of the most important agents of change for Nadja and her clients.

Nadja lives in Switzerland with her husband and her two teenage kids. She enjoys listening to and playing baroque music (with her violin) and has an open house for people from all walks of life.

This is the third post in the guest series by Nadja Schnetzler – Kanban: A Universe of Options for Life’s Planning & Organizing Challenges. You can read the previous post here.

Jim BensonKanban: A Universe of Options for Life’s Planning & Organizing Challenges #3

3 Comments on “Kanban: A Universe of Options for Life’s Planning & Organizing Challenges #3”

  1. Pingback: Kanban: A Universe of Options for Life’s Planning & Organizing Challenges #4 | Personal Kanban

  2. Kat

    Hi,
    Thanks for this series! Can you clarify this sentence when you’re talking about the “Waiting” box: WIP limitation here is three, forcing me to act on open tasks when the WIP limit is reached.” …forcing you to work on open tasks from where? Let’s say that you have allowed yourself 3 WIP in the “Doing” column and now you’re waiting on info for two of them – can’t move on until you get the info you need… So you move those stickies to the “Waiting” box and work on the other “Doing” and then it’s Done. If you still haven’t heard back about the two “Waiting” items, do you take some from the Next column? At what point do you have to do something about the Waiting?

  3. Pingback: Understanding Kanban through 7 images

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