The Options Engine-Element #6 of the Kanban

Jim BensonPrimers3 Comments

There is a tension in business between market forces and our freedom of choice. Customers (be they people who buy our products at work or be they people like our families) are people who have needs and we must fulfill them in one way or another in order to be successful. But, we are also our customer, with our own needs to fulfill. Thus, our backlog is filled with options. Things we can do for any number of people, including ourselves, to provide them (and us) with value.

When we look at our backlog we find ourselves floating in a sea of potential value. We can do them all, but … which ones SHOULD we do first? In a busy world, what do I do next has become an existential question.

We have options.

So, a few things about options:
1. They have potential – each item in your backlog should have some potential value that will only be realized if the task is completed
2. They are relative – each item in your backlog has value relative to the other items in your backlog.
3. They expire – each item in your backlog has value and that value expires at some point. My “buy mom a Christmas present” sticky that I place in my backlog on September 1st will expire on the 25th of December. Buying a present on the 26th, after Christmas has passed, is worthless.
4. They have context – potential, relative value, and expiry are all contextual. If I get chest pains in right after finishing a task, I won’t be sitting around working on the “Write Memo on Timesheet Policy” sticky. I’m going to head to the hospital. Whether that particular task is the one your team is waiting for or that your wife is excited about or that your customer won’t pay you until they receive – that’s all context.
5. Many options = many possibilities – One thing we try to do when making a plan is limit our options. We start off by coming up with a plan that represents the least-cost, highest value path to a successful completion. But context rears its head. Often after starting a project we learn important things that may well change those well-laid plans. Therefore, it behooves us at the start of a project to keep as many options open. This might mean that we explore two or three different options for the same solution, ultimately settling on the one that yields the best results.

So all those things in the READY column are options. We have a choice to do them or not to do them. We examine their context, their expiration, their potential, and we relate them to each other – then we make a decision. Then… we exercise an option.

When we understand our options, we understand our own potential, our own context. We understand that sometimes we are exercising our free will, and sometimes we are realizing someone else’s. Sometimes we will do those things for our spouse or our colleagues or our client when we’d rather be doing something else.

Kanban and Personal Kanban are our options engine – it shows us what the options are, how they relate to each other, their contexts, and their expirations.

This is post #6 in a 13 part series on the elements of kanban, if you’d like to really understand what makes kanban tick, check the rest of them out.

Jim BensonThe Options Engine-Element #6 of the Kanban

3 Comments on “The Options Engine-Element #6 of the Kanban”

  1. Jim Benson

    That is LeanKit Kanban. This entire series was done using LeanKit .. except one image which was done in google draw.

  2. Pingback: 13 Elements Of Kanban | Personal Kanban

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