Magic Monday: A Kanban Plan

“Magic Monday” posts help you start the week off right. Monday is a great day to review and regroup; if you set your mind to it, you can make this your best week yet. Thank gosh it’s Monday!

400px-Simple-kanban-board-

Simple Kanban board image courtesy of Wikipedia. http://tinyurl.com/ajvrzzx

Even if you are in a one-person development shop, chances are you are often called upon to collaborate with others on projects with many components in varying states of completion. Teams often juggle with their ability to track these tasks in a clear way that everyone can view at any time.

One tool for managing these tasks and their progress is the Kanban. Originally developed as a card system for manufacturing by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota, and used heavily by software design teams, a basic kanban board is simple to implement in your own office. It provides immediate clarity in a glance at the current status of your projects, personally or in a team setting.

The setup is easy. In a centralized location (perhaps a white board that isn’t being used, or a blank wall), make three columns: To Do, In Progress, and Done. (You can add other columns as you get comfortable with it, but I would advise you to remember the virtues of KISS.) Dig up some sticky notes and you’re ready to go.

Say we are planning a special event (sigh). We have three team members: Sally Yellow, Mike Green and Joe Pink. We assign them sticky notes in corresponding colors. At the end of our first committee meeting, Sally agrees to brainstorm a list of celebrity hosts for the event; this goes on a yellow sticky note and is placed in the “To Do” section. The same is done with Mike’s task of getting quotes from three caterers (on a green sticky note), and Joe’s task of reserving the venue for the event (on a pink sticky note). As each person makes progress on the tasks, they move their sticky note to the “In Progress” section, and subsequently to the “Done” section. Each team member can gauge the progress at a moment’s notice, and act accordingly. At the next meeting, everyone knows their progress and can move forward with other tasks. (This is a simplification; committee members usually start with more than one task, of course.)

Some teams like to use a different color post-it for each employee, or develop an at-a-glance coding system for the tasks that each person is responsible for. As with most process management tools, regular review of the tasks and their status is essential. Building time for this into staff or committee meetings is a good practice to get into.

The Kanban board can also be adapted for personal projects. The same three columns can be used, and personal tasks can be similarly moved across the board.

If you think this would work for your team, here are some other sites and articles you might be interested in:

Personal Kanban

Personal Kanban at Work (from nomad 8)

Portable Kanban (from Dmitry Ivanov)

Do you use a Kanban board in your workplace? If yes, what do you see as the biggest advantages and/or disadvantages? If not, how do you track progress on projects and tasks?

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Posted on March 11, 2013, in Magic Monday, Productivity, Project Management, Resources, Team Work, Workplace Issues and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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