The Reluctant Agilist

by
Adam Weisbart | Agile | Agile 2013 | agile 2014 | agile 2015 | Agile 2017 | Agile Alliance | agile coaching | Agile Metrics | Agile Practice | agile transformation | Agile Transition | agile2014 | agile2015 | agile42 | Agilistocrats | Alistair Cockburn | autism | Bas Vodde | BigVIsible | book review | Brian Bozzuto | carson pierce | Center for Non-Violent Communication | Certification | Chet Hendrickson | Chris Li | Coaching | commitment | Communication | conteneo | Craig Larman | cross functional teams | CSM | CSPO | Daniel Gullo | Dave Prior | David Anderson | David Bernstein | David Bland | David J Anderson | Dhaval Panchal | diana larsen | Digital PM | digitalpm | Don Kim | dpm | dpm2013 | drunkenpm | drunkenpm radio | eduscrum | emotional intelligence | empathy | Enterprise Agile | Essential Scrum | esther derby | Excella | Gangplank | Gil Broza | Howard Sublett | Individuals and Interactions | Jean Tabaka | Jesse Fewell | Jessie Shternshus | jim benson | johanna rothman | john miller | Jukka Lindstrom | Jutta Eckstein | kanban | Kanban Pad | kanbanfor1 | Ken Rubin | Kenny Rubin | Kim Brainard | lacey | Large Scale Scrum | Larry Maccherone | LeadingAgile | lean | Lean Kanban North America | LeanKit | LESS | lkna | luke hohmann | lyssa adkins | Maria Matarelli | Marshall Rosenberg | Michael Sahota | Mike Vizdos | Modern Management Methods | modus cooperandi | Natalie Warnert | Nic Sementa | Non-violent communication | NVC | Olaf Lewitz | Øredev | Øredev 2013 | organizational agility | overcommitment | Patrice Colancecco Embry | Paul Hammond | personal kanban | personal productivity | personal project management | Peter Saddington | PMBOK | PMI | PMP | podcast | Product Owner | Product Ownership | productivity | project management | Project Management Institute | Rally | reluctant agilist | retrospective | Richard Cheng | Roman Pichler | Ron Jeffries | SAFE | Safety | Sallyann Freudenberg | Scaling Scrum | Scrum | Scrum Alliance | Scrum Gathering | ScrumMaster | self organizing teams | SGPHX | SGPHX 2015 | Shane Hastie | SolutionsIQ | sprint planning | Team | teams | Temenos | The Improv Effect | Things | Tom Perry | troy magennis | User Stories | value | Vivek Angiras | waste | Waterfall | What We Say Matters | why limit wip | women in agile | Woody Zuill | show all posts

About this Blog

RSS

Recent Posts

Edward Kay - Making Agile work in Digital

Justin Handler - Implementing Agile in Digital At O3 World

Making Agile work in a Digital Agency w/ Darren Petersen

Agile 2017 - Agile Practice Guide w/ Johanna Rothman and Mike Griffiths

Making Agile work at Digital Agencies w/ Jack Skeels

Personal Kanban - What Makes You Happy?


Track Your Happiness helped me gain a better understand of my unique issues with determining "value", but, in general, I think happiness is not really my bag... or at least, not the driving force behind my understanding of "value". While working on this project I have been talking with a lot of people who do evaluate things that way. They see the things they have an opportunity to do as either "things which make me happy" or "things which do not make me happy". So, the prioritization happens based on the degree of expected happiness or degree of expected unhappiness.

IMHO think the true goal is to find a way to uncover the aspect of whatever you are doing that can make you happy. It sounds simple, but it requires effort and discipline... it is far easier to just give in and wallow. Personal Kanban is supposed to help you understand your work better, and it has, but my increased awareness of how I perceive the work I have to do may be the most valuable thing I've picked up doing this. 

An even though using TrackYourHappiness.org was interesting, it never felt (to me) like it was measuring the right stuff. Happiness seemed close, but not quite close enough.

After some discussion with Boz, I began rating everything I do at 3 different points:

A) How I felt doing it (-3 to +3)
B) How I felt finishing it (-3 to +3)
C) Overall mirth from having it done (-3 to +3)

http://farm1.staticflickr.com/87/263228000_9513c97026_o.jpgOne of the things I realized in tracking the work I was doing was that for some items, the simple act of finishing it off can be as valuable as getting some newer items done.  This is especially true for the ones that have been sitting on the Kanban board smirking at you and taunting you in all their undone glory. The longer they sit the more mental and emotional weight they take on. 

It is probably also important to note that how progress is tracked has a toll as well. Capturing a 3 point ranking as I complete each task was okay on a post it - until I needed to extract the data electronically so I could analyze it. I was still struggling with letting go of Things and since I knew there was a way to extract the data I used that as my excuse to formally legitimize my inability to give up my favorite app. Unfortunately, my Coach asked me to try and see if I could work out how to use it to do Personal Kanban in a manner that was somewhat similar to what I had on my physical board.

It took a few tries, but I did manage to do get set up to do Personal Kanban in Things by grouping items into categories named after backlog columns.  As I completed each task, before I checked the box, I would assign it a 3-digit number based on the rating listed above. But, I don't think I ever moved anything into Doing... they just went from not done, to done.

After a few weeks Boz and I reviewed the results and for the most part, the information they offered were things that were already been apparent. Going through this process did have one very significant  result though. It caused me to pay more attention to how I felt about each thing I was doing while I was doing it and when I was finished doing it. I became more present with what I was doing and more aware of the impact it was having - which may be a significant contributor to the perception of value.

Using Things as a way to track all this also made me keenly aware of two additional points:

1. Trying to use Things to do Personal Kanban is kinda dumb

2. It was time to climb out of the value rabbit hole

My quest to understand the "value" of what I was doing had no clear answer save for the understanding that value can be a very subjective thing. I also had begun to feel like maybe the question was not, am I doing things that are not valuable, or how do I reduce the waste created by non-value adding activities, but how do I balance all the valuable things I want to work on. So, in many ways I was back to where I started.

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3529/3229050640_ed5393886a_o.jpgI have lots to do.
I want/need to do it all.
I have limited time.
I need a way to decide what to do first - always

One key difference though is that as I continue to work through this, I am becoming more aware of how I am working and why. There are things in the system which are (technically) waste. Maybe those things needs to be there to keep the rest of the system in balance.

{Insert Climactic Ending Here}

If we were machines, perhaps all waste would be bad. Waste dampens productivity. But, we are not machines and maybe those dampeners are part of how we maintain our own productive flow. In examining the waste in my Personal Kanban practice, I have observed that it exists and that the effort required to eliminate that waste may not be worth the squeeze.

Posted on: June 26, 2013 12:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Personal Kanban : The Heart of Darkness

 
 
 

Personal Kanban Experiment... Weeks 10-12


Kanban. (expletive) Still only in Kanban. Every time I think I’m gonna wake up back in the GTD…

Towards the end of my experiment with Kanban-for-1 I was feeling like I had lost my way. I was still carrying too much work to be able to make use of Kanban-for-1, but my attempts at using it had taught me a number of useful things.
  1. Whatever I use, it needs to be completely portable.
  2. Whatever I use needs to be available to me whether I am online or off.
  3. Whatever I use needs to be simple enough that the act of using it does not become a time/productivity suck. The tool can’t be in my way.
  4. I really like working with a physical board and would like something as close to that as possible.
  5. When I am home, and using the physical board on the wall, the process works quite well for me.

I toyed with the idea of trying to get a piece of plastic that I could use for a physical board and that I could roll up and carry with me. But I’m guessing that the person in seat 21A (who is probably still a bit irked about losing the battle for the armrest) is not going to take kindly to me unrolling my big Kanban board to work on it mid flight.

The Horror, The Horror


I did attempt to use my Kanban journal. This is the book I make notes in each week on how things are going. I carry it with me each time I go on the road, so it seems like a great fit. Exiting Kanban-for -1, I re-created all my post its and created a PK Board in my notebook that was just like the one on my wall. It worked great until I actually placed the post-its in the book. I was right back to the Kanban-for-1 issue. Drowning in a bunch of stuff I could not really see clearly. Just like with Kanban-for-1, if I had to move a task, first I had to dig through the piles of tasks to figure out where it was.

Disclaimer: I should point out that if you are reading this hoping to get to a point where I realize I’m just carrying way too many tasks… you might want to get a sandwich… it’s gonna be a while.
 
I decided to take a look at the Personal Kanban apps again. My requirements were the same:

  1. Must be available on laptop, iPhone and iPad.
  2. Must be as close to my physical board as possible (meaning must allow for swim lanes).
  3. Must have some capacity for dealing with recurring tasks.
  4. Must be available online and offline with a sync capability or something as easy as capturing notes on a post it or index card.

Basically I’m looking for Things, but Kanban style (cough cough Cultured Code cough cough).
Since I’ve started writing this blog people have been kind enough to send in a number of recommendations. Trello seems to be very popular. I’ve also received suggestions that I use Evernote for Kanban. I’d love to be able to do that, but I’ve not yet found a tool that would allow me to do so in as effortless a manner as I am looking for. Basically, if using the tool is more work than pulling an index card or a post it out of my pocket and capturing the item/updating the item while I am in an elevator, walking down the street, or sitting on a plane, it’s too much work.

Unfortunately, none of the tools I was able to find met all my requirements. However, after looking over the options, I decided o give Leankit a try. My reasons for choosing it were not entirely scientific, but I’m human…

Leankit allowed me to do the following:
  1. Set up my swim lanes just like I had them on the wall.
  2. Define the work state columns however I wanted.
  3. Establish whatever WIP limits I wanted and warn me when I tried to exceed them.
  4. It let me color code the cards based on work type.

The last point may seem trivial, but to me, it is very significant and one of the primary reasons that I have so much trouble with personal Kanban applications. The value of my physical board is that I can put everything I had to do up there at once. I can look at it all at once. It is a really big information radiator. For me, it’s a billboard telling me what is going on with the things I feel I need to do. No matter how awesome the software is, or how big my monitor is, there doesn’t seem to be a way to replicate the big thing on the wall + tactile interaction thing.

While my preference for a physical board is clearly established, there is no way that my physical board and my Martin travel guitar are going to fit in the overhead, so I need me some app-age.
 

"Never get out of the boat... Unless you were goin all the way."
(Capt. Willard)

Leankit


I used Leankit for about a month during this project. As far as Personal Kanban apps go, it is my weapon of choice. I’ve not tested out the paid version, which includes some extra features and more detailed analytics, but I found the free version to be very helpful in tracking my work on the road. My favorite aspect of the application was the customization. I really liked that I could set up my board in Leankit to mirror the one I have at home. In practicing any work habit, I believe the first step should always be the physical practice. If it moves to an electronic tool, then it is important to select a tool that allows you to mirror your physical behavior. Leankit offered me the most freedom there.

It even allowed me to set up multiple backlogs so that I could mirror how Things had worked for me. While I wasn’t able to figure out how to get recurring tasks going, I was able to create a ReUsable backlog so that each night I could move the recurring Daily items back into that backlog if I wanted. I didn’t actually end up doing that, but it somehow eased my mind to know that I could.

It also allows you to set due dates, mark work as blocked and it has an icon system for type of work.


So, Leankit allowed me to replicate my physical board on the web. It also has an iPhone application which took a little time to get the hang of, but which allowed me to update items as long as I could get online. With respect to my requirements:
 

  1. Must be available on laptop, iPhone and iPad (PASS)
  2. Must be as close to my physical board as possible (meaning must allow for swim lanes) (PASS)
  3. Must have some capacity for dealing with recurring tasks (FAIL)
  4. Must be available online and offline with a sync capability or something as easy as capturing notes on a post it or index card (FAIL)

From a mobility standpoint, with the exception of offline sync, the tool works quite well. It allows me to access my work, update it, enter new items, etc. You can even set it up to allow you to access multiple accounts. On my iPhone I have Leankit set up to access my personal account under one email address and another one I use for Scrum Alliance volunteer work.

The fact that Leankit did not meet all my requirements is not significant for me. None of the applications I looked at were able to meet all of them. From a customization, portability and usability standpoint, I am a big fan of Leankit.

You can't go out into space with fractions.
Initially I had planned to keep testing different applications. What I discovered after a few weeks was that while I want to the portability, the loss of big information radiator-ness was crippling. This was something I decided needed further research, but not so much in the way of testing additional apps. What I felt I needed a better handle on was why I wanted the apps and what I was actually doing with them. I do expect to go back and test out some additional apps – I really want to take a look at Trello because a lot of people have mentioned to me that they use it. But, after a few weeks with Leankit I decided to bail on trying new software for a while because it was time to start working with a Personal Kanban coach. Coverage of that will begin in the next blog post.
Posted on: May 14, 2013 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Personal Kanban Week 6

What if you mix the mayonnaise in the can, WITH the tunafish?

By week 6 I felt like I had begun to get the hang of a basic working practice of doing Personal Kanban using a physical board. I definitely still had room for improvement, but I felt ready to start on the next phase of this experiment  - tracking the work using an electronic board. Another reason I wanted to begin this phase was that I was about to begin traveling and teaching again.

The questions I initially had about this were:

  1. Could I maintain the working habits I had established using an electronic board?
  2. Could I find a tool that was as easy for me to use as a physical board?
  3. Could I fit all the work I was carrying on to the physical board?
  4. Could I find a tool that would allow me to work in an offline mode and have any changes I made sync up when I went back online?

There were a number of concerns I had about each of these questions.

Maintaining Working Habits

When I am teaching Scrum classes or coaching I always advocate starting out with a physical practice of working with a board on the wall whenever possible. There are two primary reasons for this.

The first is that when people are adopting an Agile practice, doing the work with physical tools allows the practitioners to develop their own working version of Scrum. Once they have established their practice, they gain clarity on what they need a tool to do for them. If they begin with an electronic tool, they learn to work the way the tool works. Each of the tools offers it’s own take on Agile and this may, or may not work to the benefit of the practitioner, but more often than not I’ve seen people rely on the tool to drive their habits (or provide them with an excuse for not applying some aspect of a practice.)

The second reason is that while it may not seem like a big deal, there is a psychological boost that comes from walking up to a board and moving a card into the Done column. It’s not a huge boost, but it is a good feeling to physically do that. If you can do it multiple times a day, there is an increased sense of accomplishment and this helps drive the practice. While I do think there is also a boost from doing the same in electronic form, I have not personally found that to be as positive an experience.

Ease of Use

Since I was still in the beginning stages of training myself to work this way, I wanted to make sure I would be able to find a tool that would allow me to maintain the good habits I was developing, while allowing me to continue to experiment. I also wanted to make sure that the process of creating a task, or moving a task would be as simple/easy as writing something down on a post it and moving it across a physical board. My assumption was that if the tool proved to be more complicated to use than a physical board, I would be less likely to maintain or improve on the habits I was developing. Anytime using software becomes more difficult to use than paper it makes work harder. That would obviously work against my goal for this entire project.

Fitting it All In

When I made the decision to try to include everything I do on the board my board became pretty crowded. I even had to switch to smaller post its in order to be able to fit everything. My goal was to find a tool that would allow me to keep all the work in one place, but it also had to be stored in a way that was big and visible enough for me to be able to see everything all at once.

Off the Grid

This was the biggest challenge for me. I have spent the last two + years teaching myself how to stop letting things slip through the cracks by relying on Things and Evernote. Both of these tools allow me to work on multiple devices and then have changes sync up when I reconnect. Basically, whenever I think of something I need to do, or encounter information I expect to need later, my goal is to get that thing out of my head and into something more responsible than me as quickly as possible. I have too much to do and sometimes I forget stuff. I’m also often easily distracted by the “OH LOOK A SQUIRREL!” factor, and I get ideas and find information in odd places when I am not connected. In working this way I have definitely developed a habit of putting more in Things than I can do, but this has helped me keep things from completely slipping through the cracks. Several times a day I review the list of items I have placed in the Today section of Things to clean it up. I do end up moving deadlines on tasks quite a bit, but having them there at least helps remind me that they are there and probably should be dealt with at some point. I also periodically review the items that have moved out of Today into Someday and do my best to cull the herd.

Evernote is like the junk drawer for my brain. It allows me the freedom to fully engage my inner Bill Blazejowski. All the ideas, notes, pictures of weird things that are momentarily important to me for some unknown reason, the books I want to read, and voice notes from “Chuck to remind Bill to SHUT UP!” go in there. There’s a good chance many of those things will get no further than being stuck in Evernote and left to electronically wither… but I do feel more at ease knowing that I have them... just in case.

The problem is, that Personal Kanban seems to be largely focused on reducing the amount of cultter (stuff I’m trying to work on) and moving to an electronic version may make it tough to continue embracing my inner digital hoarder. Six weeks in, I’ve still not been able to break from using Things every day just to capture stuff that may need to be added to the backlog. It may be dysfunctional, but my addiction to storing everything in a place more reliable than my own head is something I’ve been working on develpoing for a long time. It is definitely more appealing to me than going back to forgetting things I need to do. I was not sure how much of that I’d be able to let go of, or if doing so was even necessary.

So one of my goals for Sprint 6 was to select a tool and start testing. The first tool I decided to try was Kanban For 1. I’ll be posting about that beginning next week.

Posted on: April 04, 2013 12:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
ADVERTISEMENTS

"If you are patient in a moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow."

- Chinese Proverb

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors