A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of taking a class put on by Modus Cooperandi called “Individual, Team, & Project Success: Personal Kanban" with Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria, authors of the book Personal Kanban. Even though personal kanban is a system I am very familiar with, I was psyched to be able to take the class because I was confident that spending two days with Jim and Toni was going to have a deep impact.
One surprise benefit was that I finally got a chance to meet Amitai Schleier in person. Both Amitai and I had a lot of valuable takeaways from the class. In this episode of The Reluctant Agilist, we share what we learned from our time with Jim and Toni and some of the challenges each of us face day-to-day in dealing with limiting our WIP and managing flow. Both of us highly recommend taking any training you can with Jim and Tonianne. They are brilliant and come from diverse backgrounds, which is part of what makes their classes so insightful.
Upcoming Modus Leadership Class in NYC:
Leader Standard Work in the Office: How to Be a Lean / Agile Leader or Work... www.eventbrite.com/e/leader-standa…ets-58671636444
Amitai’s Upcoming Events
Modus Cooperandi Links
Contacting Jim and Tonianne
The Reluctant Agilist is hosted on ProjectManagement.com. This podcast may not be copied or reused without their permission.
“And now we're back
It’s been seven months since I began using Personal Kanban. Initially I wanted to learn more about Kanban and also come up with a better way to cope with the massive amount of things I had waiting for me to do. I’ve definitely learned more about Kanban and my ability to manage the work I have to do in a much healthier way than I had before. Most of all, there were learnings that caught me by surprise.
The biggest benefit of the last few months by far, is that I have become more aware of how I work and I am more aware of what I need to do to correct it.
When you begin studying certain forms of meditation you learn to count your breath. When thoughts arise you are to observe them, but not engage them. You just let them move on without getting caught up with them. If you do find that you are caught up, once you realize it, you let go and then refocus on your breath and start counting again. Not easy in the beginning, but the more you do it, the less difficult it becomes. My expectation is that working with Personal Kanban (or whatever approach is taken to getting work done) is similar. There are have periods where things go well and, and some, not so much. The trick is just to go back to the starting point and do it all again.
Time to make the donuts…
From time to time, we all get stuck.
In the middle of this project I got stuck with Personal Kanban and was not sure how to move forward. I am very fortunate to know people like Brian Bozzuto, and even more fortunate that he was willing to take the time to help coach me through my practice of PK.
And I am equally fortunate to know Scott Bellware and Ray Lewallen. These guys are usually my first call when I get stuck with things that are related to Agile. They are both very smart, and they both have a lot of experience. But the main thing for me is that they both see the world, and the work, in a way that is completely different from how I see it. More often than not, our conversations end up with me gaining a perspective I would probably not have found on my own.
I reached out to Scott and Ray with the intent of getting their take on what was happening with my Personal Kanban experiment. I also wanted to get their thoughts on my questions about interpreting value and see how they felt about my complete inability to employ 5S in my workspace.
Both Scott and Ray agreed to allow me to record the call so that I could use it as a podcast of sorts. This is not a typical interview, but more of a conversation/debate. It is broken into two parts in order to make it easier to download and I’ve listed key points in the conversation below, along with the times during the recording when they occur.
1:46 - Is Personal Kanban even useful to begin with?
4:20 - Why Scott doesn't use Kanban anymore
5:30 – The spread of Kanban
6:50 - Ray advocates for useful tools over following a specific methodology
8:30 – How Value and Prioritization build momentum
10:47 - Why momentum is so important
12:30 - Measuring value
12:45 - Writing everything down: wasteful, or not?
16:30 - Why Scott and Ray think I should throw everything away
18:30 - Making mindful decisions about your Personal Kanban practices
0:00 - The importance of WIP and the cognitive burden of the backlog
2:25 - Avoiding "rank, negligent ignorance" when tracking your work
3:17 – The resurgence of things that are important enough to survive
3:48 – Maintenance of information inventory
6:07 – The importance of customizing your own solution
8:00 - Dealing with interrupters
11:40 – Knowing which waste to eliminate
14:20 - You can't have kaizen, you have to be kaizen
15:20 - The value of 5S
18:10 - The importance of a soluble workspace
22:00 – Tracking recurring tasks
23:51 - practice mode vs. practical mode
25:00 - Where to learn more about Scott and Ray
26:22 - Scott's last request
I mentioned before that I was happy enough with LeanKit that after I had adapted to using it, that I was not going to keep testing out different apps for Personal Kanban.
What can I say...
I was pretty happy with LeanKit from a Personal Kanban standpoint. When I checked it against my original criteria a few weeks ago, it only hit 50% of my original requirements:
But that was better than none, and it let me do some stuff I felt was really important:
I am also part of a volunteer group that had made a decision to use it and we were able to get full access to the tool which opened up some additional functionality. Being able to attach files to card and assign them to multiple individuals is something I found very helpful when using it with a team.
I went to a meeting. I sat next to someone way smarter to me. I glanced at his screen and saw that he was using a Kanban app. Since he is smarter than me, and had come to a meeting with just an iPad (an obvious indicator of superior intellect and travel skill), and his screen was filled with a lot of really bright colors, it became obvious to me that this was an app worthy of further investigation. And this is how I was introduced to Kanban Pad.
When I compare this Kanban Pad against my original criteria:
The app works great on an iPad or in a web browser. It's easy to drag cards from one column to another. And technically, Kanban Pad works on an iPhone as well. They do have a version sized for the small screen. Unfortunately, in the smaller screen, you can only view one column at a time. Trying to move tasks between columns in this format left me feeling like I was wearing boxing gloves while carrying a small child, a folding chair and trying to eat an ice cream cone at the same time.
Kanban Pad does allow for customizable, swim lanes, but not in exactly the same way that you'd set them up on a physical board. It allows you to establish multiple columns and within each column the Type setting allows you to establish Queue, In Progress or Queue and In Progress workflows. By using Queue and In Progress and editing the labels, I found an easy solution to my recurring task issue.
Another great feature is that the Product Backlog and Backlog of work that has moved past Accepted (meaning it no longer needs to be seen), can be maintained off the main task board.
Kanban Pad also allows you to establish WIP limits for your queues and it warns you fairly incessantly about your flagrant violation of them should you choose to venture off the path. (I ended up not using this feature because my frustration over the warnings became more significant than my desire to maintain WIP limits.
The app includes a feature where you can customize colored tags which can be applied to each task so that you can tell what type of work you are looking at.
There are a number of additional features that Kanban Pad offers, but those are the ones that have proven to be most valuable to me from a Personal Kanban perspective.
By way of a final verdict/opinion on the app, I offer this... I've been using Kanban Pad for about 6-8 weeks now. It has become my primary tool for managing my work using Personal Kanban. After all my efforts at trying to find a way to use Things as a tool for Personal Kanban, I've all but stopped using Things and only open it (or Reminders) now when I have to capture something that I will add to my task board later.
Don Kim is a project leader who with over 15 years of experience in program and project management. His work covers a wide range of industries, but his primary focus is in IT. Don is also an avid blogger who has posted a number of articles over the past few months about incorporating techniques from Scrum and Kanban into the management of his work at a personal level. When I learned he was using PK to manage his own work I asked Don if he would allow me to interview him to hear more about how his has been using Personal Kanban.
A link to the interview and notes on key points in the podcast are below. If you are interested in learning more about Don you can find him through his blog Project@tion (http://www.projectation.com/), or through his work on Projects At Work (http://www.projectsatwork.com/profile/donkim/) and ProjectManagement.com (http://www.projectmanagement.com/profile/donkim).
You can find the interview here: http://www.projectsatwork.com/content/podCasts/279293.cfm
The interview lasts for about 30 minutes. If you’d like to skip ahead to specific points, here are some of the key moments in the interview:
0:00 - Don explains his background and the focus of his writing for Project@tion, ProjectManagement.com and Projects at Work.
1:55 - Don's thoughts on the volume of work PMs are facing today and how it impacts their ability to get things done.
4:45 Don explains how his use of personal productivity tools has evolved and how it resulted in him reaching a point where he was spending more time creating lists of things to do than actually getting anything on those lists done.
7:30 - Don and I discuss the fact that limiting the work in progress doesn't actually alleviate the larger backlog of things that need to be done. We also talk about the psychological impact of maintaining a list of things that do not get done.
10:28 - Don explains how he uses Personal Kanban to limit his ability to do work and how it helps him stay focused on only the most critical things.
11:20 - Don's shares his thoughts on tools for Personal Kanban and value long term planning.
13:20 - Don explains how he prioritizes his work based on goals for his goals for relationships.
15:29 - Don maintains a separation between work life and personal life. This helps help him stay focused on his goals for his personal life.
16:23 - Don's thoughts on the "reboot" of Kanban.
19:48 – Don explains how the the "reboot" is impacting the use of Personal Kanban.
21:10 - Don explains how he responds to requests from people who would rather stick with a Gantt chart and traditional planning instead of moving towards a more transparent Agile approach.
25:05 - Don's advice for people who are struggling with managing their own personal project management.
28:57 – Where you can learn more about Don and the work he is doing.