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
Personal Kanban Experiment... Weeks 10-12
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.
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.
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:
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.
"Never get out of the boat... Unless you were goin all the way."
|You can't go out into space with fractions.|
I had run across nomad8’s Kanbanfor1 physical boards at an Agile conference during the previous year. While one part of my brain looked at them and thought, "Wow, they are really charging a lot (about $28) for something I could put together myself on a chalkboard, whiteboard or refrigerator for $0. It was difficult for this part of my brain to get a message through edge-wise because the other part of my brain was drowning it out. The other part of my brain apparently thinks if I amass a certain volume of apps designed to “improve” my productivity I will somehow magically be transformed into some hyper productive version of myself that can work a 16 hour day, spend several hours of quality time with my wife and daughter at night and still manage to get something called “a full night’s rest”. That part of my brain was shouting "BUY THAT NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!"
Fortunately, I was able to talk myself down… probably by spending the same insane amount of money on a book I haven’t read.
When I found the app for the iPad though… I really compelled to test it out. And, it is very pretty to look at. I used it for several weeks… or rather, I tried to, did I mention it is very pretty to look at? This posting will concern it self with my review of the app. (Next week I’ll talk about what happened in between my attempts to get my world sorted with Kanbanfor1.)
The app has updated since I began testing it, so some of my concerns may have gone addressed already. I also think it is important to state up front that the issues I had with the application are not really problems with the application, they are problems with my approach to work.
Kanbanfor1 is laid out in a very clean, basic way. You get boxes for the following:
You also get a trashcan where you put the notes when they reach a state of whatever comes after done… ascended maybe?
The app is about as basic and simple to use as it could possibly be. There is a box with a “+” sign in the top left of the screen. Click it, and you get a New Task pop-up. You enter the task description, select from one of 6 colors for your task and click Done. The task shows up in the Things to Do column. You can move it across the board. That’s it. That is all it does. I love that. It is what made me want to try it. ... (Once I came to grips with the fact that if there is a Kanban app that allows for online/offline access with sync. I am unable to locate it.)
I placed a task of each color in the notes field and used the names from the swim lanes on my physical board. I then replicated all the tasks from my board into Kanbanfor1. As far as I know, there is no capacity for WIP limits in this app… it is bare bones, but kind of elegant in its’ simplicity.
(And did I mention it is pretty?)
While I knew this was going to be an issue, I underestimated how annoying it would become. What I store on my iPad is only available on the iPad. This is great when I’m teaching a class or sitting on the couch, with my iPad. This is completely useless when I am trudging through an airport with a ridiculous amount of luggage. So, in those moments, I’m back to Things…, which I then re-enter into Kanbanfor1.
This lack of constant access didn’t seem to me like it should be a big deal. In practice though, I noticed that rather than updating as I go, which I do with the physical board, I was just not doing that with the app on my iPad. I ended up just capturing things at the end of the day. A subtle difference, but it meant that when I was posting the updates, I was having to look through all the tasks, figure out which ones I had completed and move them from Things to Do into Done. I lost the value that comes from the staged movement, and I lost the boost from moving it into Done when I completed it.
What was a more significant issue for me was the fact that there is no ability to change the size of the board. Sure, you can pinch and zoom, but it just makes the stickies larger too. If you have 10-20 things to do, this board is great. If your backlog has 30-40 things in it, this board is tough to work with. At least if you are going for that whole big, visible information radiator thing. In order to get all my tasks on the board I had to create stacks. So, in "Things to Do" I have a stack of things I have to do for work. There may be 10 things in there, I have to just stack them up, maintaining priority is not easy – you have to unstack the tasks one by one, and then restack them. (If you happen to suffer from something in the neighborhood of OCD, you are looking forward to hours spend restacking tasks in priority every time you want to work in a new item.)
So what I end up with (sans the WIP limits) is stacks in each of the boxes. While I love the simplicity and I think the way the app is designed makes a lot of sense, for someone who is carrying a lot of tasks, this board will simply not work. I think if there were some capacity to manage the height of the boxes, or the size of the tasks, it may work better. Unfortunately, at least while I was testing it, this was not the case. If, however, I had a more manageable set of Things to Do, and I was always going to have my iPad with me (the way I do my phone), I think this app would be a perfectly fine solution… even without the syncing.
If anyone who reads this can recommend an app that offers online and offline access with a sync to reconcile changes, that is available on IOS, please let me know. I have been researching them, but so far, it is all about the cloud. I think the cloud is great, but when I’m stuck in the actual clouds for several hours at a time, I need to be able to enter new items and make updates.