Book Review: Personal Kanban

“Like Traffic, work does not fit.  Work flows.”

Personal Kanban

Do you ever look up at the end of the day and wonder
1) Where the day went?stress in ufficio
2) What you spent it on?

3) Whether another urgent and important task is out there waiting to blindside you?

Personal Kanban might help you avoid that moment of staring into the void.  Personal Kanban, written by Jim Benson and Torianne DeMaria Barry, does an excellent job of introducing you to the mechanics of Kanban and how to implement it.  But that’s not why I recommend it.

I recommend the book because of three ideas it introduces that will help you become more effective:

First, Context should always inform your actions.

Standard Time management strategies take your To Dos and assume that they are all equivalent and that your days are all the same: no unexpected tasks pop up and no personal responsibilities inpinge on your free time.  The sense is that you shouldn’t let these unexpected interruptions push you off of your prioritized list.

Personal Kanban basically tells you what you already know: that if you need to rush home because your child is sick or you have a firedrill request from a customer –  your time and the list of Prioritized To Dos will be upset – if not completely set aside.  Personal Kanban explains how using Kanban will help you see this priority change and force you to make a conscious decision on what is more important and what will not get done on this day.  Context always impacts the flow of your work.  ‘What’s going on in their lives’ or your team’s context is the reason you add contingency in your team’s estimates – isn’t it time you considered it in how you plan your day?

Secondly, Work unseen is Work uncontrolled.

Aside from the To Dos on your current list, unexpected actions and issues pop up on team meetings or status calls that require your attention.  Do you add those to your To Do list or do you just “fit them into” your multi-tasking?  At the end of the day, do you recognize or even remember these smaller tasks that ate up time and attention?  My bet is that you don’t – and that’s why capturing everything in your backlog is so important.  You can’t track what doesn’t enter your conscious awareness.  You can’t track it, can’t measure your effectiveness and likely can’t remember that you finished it if you’re traffic rush hour  in shanghaispinning from one task to another.

And finally, Bottlenecks need to be visible.   

Once you get your kanban board started, Personal Kanban warns about tasks that seem stuck for no apparent reason.  Decisions that don’t get made or actions that others need to take in order for you to complete your task will result in a pile up of work in your Today column.  With a bottleneck, your work is not flowing.  On top of that, it won’t be clear why they are hung up.  It you add dependent tasks or tasks that are bottlenecking a ‘To Do’ to your Kanban board in your ‘Today’ column, you make these dependencies visible and it allows you to pull another task forward in its place.
civil traffic in city

With these and other tips to improve the flow of your work, Personal Kanban is worth reading.  It’s a book that hands the reader the building blocks to put together a Kanban that works for *her* life, and at the same time, encouraging her to change the structure and the tools as she sees fit.

At the end of your day – you should know what you finished and be able to assess how effective you were. No more staring into the void.

Have you read any good books on Kanban lately?  If not, try reading Personal Kanban.  Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.


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