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Johanna Rothman helps managers and teams solve problems and deliver products. Her most recent book is Manage your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects. You can read her blogs and other writings at Johanna is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 126 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Personal Kanban and Iterations, Day 1

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JR Personal Kanban Day 1I use a form of personal kanban inside one-week iterations to finish my work and notice what I am not doing. I do this to maintain a cadence of blogging and to finish work. Did you notice that word, finish?

Sidebar: For those of you who don’t know what “kanban” is, it literally means “card.” It’s been used in manufacturing for years as a pull system for work. I have an example for what a kanban system might look like for teams in Agile Lifecycles for Geographically Distributed Teams, Part 3. I just realized I don’t have a picture of a personal kanban on Hiring Technical People. I will have to fix that.

I’m human, the same as you. I get bogged down. I sometimes get freaked out by the amount of work I have to complete. And, this week and next, as I complete my preparations for my London workshops and Let’s Test, I have more than I originally expected to do.

Why? Before PSL, several local potential clients called and wanted meetings. Meetings! Not phone calls, but in-person meetings.

The problem with in-person meetings is that they take longer. They aren’t one hour long. They are close to two hours long. I have to leave enough time to get there, have the meeting and get back. But, these are very interesting potential clients, so I took the meetings.

The result? I am not where I want to be with respect to my deliverables. So I will be blogging my personal kanban this week, so you can see what I do to finish my work.

Now, you can see from my picture, I don’t always do personal kanban “right.” I don’t have stickies. I have a list. That’s wrong. You’re supposed to do queues. Well, I don’t. This is my kanban. I can do anything I want with it.

Why don’t I use stickies? Because I don’t want to get up and move a sticky on a board. I get too dizzy. My desk is a disaster, so I don’t use a kanban notebook. it would get buried And, I don’t believe in tools. (Sorry, tool vendors.) I like paper and pen. I get total transparency this way. It’s easy for me to move things around.

I do schedule my longer-term article commitments to other people in the reminders tool on my Mac, so I don’t forget things.

I have a backlog in rough order of priority. Well, sort of. I have a ton of things to do before Wednesday, 5/1. Yes, everything down to “SQGNE presentation by 5/1″ is supposed to be done before 5/1. I can pick anything I want off that backlog and get it to done before 5/1.

Note that I have first drafts specified for the coaching workshop and the PM workshops. I have draft zeros done already. It’s time to finish the first drafts, and put them aside for another day or so. I already have draft one of the Sweden hiring workshop, which needs finishing, which is why it’s farther down on the list.

If people call and need something that does not go on the backlog, I have an urgent queue on the right side of the page. We’ll see how the week goes.

Remember, I’m only one person, so my WIP limit is one, which is why I didn’t even bother with a “Doing” column. I’m not going to have a PEN column this week. If I call anyone this week, it has to be after I get my todos done for my trip. I’m not taking interruptions. I have way too much work to do.

Oh, and I’m still working out at the gym, and sleeping my regular hours and eating properly. In order to accomplish everything I need to do, I have to take care of myself and maintain and sustainable pace.

Let me know if this is interesting to you. Yes, this blog post counts as my “MPD blog” entry.

Published at DZone with permission of Johanna Rothman, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Ian Mitchell replied on Wed, 2013/05/01 - 3:03am

Personal Kanban is a great idea if you can manage your own time and priorities. However, there is a constraint which is shared by most people in general employment, certainly in the technology sector. That constraint is the electronic calendar, as typified by Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook.

It's difficult to picture working life without these calendars, but it has to be admitted that they compromise the sense of planning and priority. Meetings appear in vacant slots and the correlation with importance and urgency can be tenuous or non-existent. When I see people behaving in reactive ways, the battle between operational matters and what the calendar says they should be doing is usually playing a part somewhere.

My solution, as much as I can be said to have one, is to use my calendar as a personal Kanban of sorts. I work with a 48 to 72 hour horizon, whereby I block out sections of my time with what I think needs doing over the next 2 or 3 working days. I'll leave one or two half-hour slots available each day for people who need to see me urgently. Incidentally, I find that Pomodoro helps at a finer grained level for delivering work in 25 minute chunks.

Johanna Rothman replied on Wed, 2013/05/01 - 6:30am

 Ian, you can use Pomodoro as a way to do personal kanban. You still take the highest ranking work off your queue, and work on it first. It's terrific for forcing you to work in small chunks, too.

I think the business of allowing other people access to your calendar is fine. Control over your calendar is another thing entirely. I sympathize with you.

Good for you, for finding a way that works for you, in an environment that does not always allow you to be your best.

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