Once upon a time, I found I had little space in the office to organize my work. With the more recent office hoteling policies, while there is more flexible space, there is less of one’s own personal space. I wanted a place where every morning I can quickly visualize my work for the day ahead. While there are online tools that I can use, I wanted something more tactile. What I did have was a desktop surface. I did have post-its, and sharpies. I decided to experiment with Kanban on a physical desktop.
As an Agile Coach, I work in iterations and increments much like I educate and coach teams and organizations. It allows me to listen to what my customers want and prioritize the work based on value, much like a Product Owner should do. With this in mind, I used my simple tools to craft a kanban board on my desk.
Before I go any further, allow me to provide you with a brief description of what is a kanban board. It is a work board that helps you visualize both the work and the flow of that work. It helps you optimize the flow of your work by understanding your WIP (work in progress) limit. In its physical form, it is usually shaped by a few state transitions as columns, the most basic include ‘To Do”, “Doing”, and “Done”. My work card (where I write the activity) was written in canonical form and I added when the task was written and then when I completed the work on the card, the “done” date so I could understand my flow.
I took the initial discovery activities that my client (aka., customer) and I agreed to, wrote them onto post-its with my sharpie, and added them to the kanban board in priority order based on both value and order dependency. As I completed some of the discovery tasks, I added new tasks from my customers to the “To Do” column and reprioritized on a regular basis. I experimented with keeping my WIP limit to about 3 activities in “Doing” at a time.
What I liked about this kanban experiment was that each morning when I got to my desk, I had my work right in front of me. This immediately reminded me of my work for the day. It was very easy to maintain as it only took some post-its and markers to update the board. Every morning I checked the work that was in “Doing” so I knew what I had to get done for the day. I also enacted a quick reprioritization of the work so I knew what to pull from the “To Do” column when I had available WIP. I managed to get a lot of work done this way.
I’d say the experiment was a success. What did I learn? That it is too easy to add more activities into “Doing” adding to WIP. This had the unfortunate result of slowing my throughput. What else did I learn? That yes I kanban!