Where I Work

Where I Work

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Personal Kanban Week 3

Off the Rails…

It was all going so very well. By the start of the 3rd week I was beginning to get the hang of the process. I wasn’t a shining model of productivity, but I was certainly making improvements.  I was learning a lot about how I worked and what I needed to do to become more productive. I had started making notes about all the experiments I wanted to run in the coming weeks.  I was keeping my PK Journal up to date. The only issue was that I hadn’t tried it with real work yet because I was also still on staycation. (I travel a lot for work, so when it comes to vacation, I’m totally happy to just spend the time at home becoming fully present with what a bad decision it was for someone who is horribly allergic to cats to adopt three of them.) Being at home for the first part of this experiment had allowed me to establish the physical habits of personal kanban and my hope was that this would keep me rooted in the practice once I was on the road again.

So naturally, the obvious next step was to completely screw that all up.

I had planned to be away on a retreat for a few days during the 3rd week. While I was there I picked up a slight cold that immediately turned me into a walker for about 8 days. Both of these events meant that for a period of almost 2 weeks, I was completely unable to do work on anything on my board.

Failure Bow

So… time for a Failure Bow

(If you aren't familiar with the Failure Bow, I'd like to recommend watching the Matt Smith TED talk below.)

While it would be easy to rip myself up for losing step, I knew that was going to happen at some point. What I was more interested in was what it would take for me to recover when it did happen.

Since I’d been keeping detailed notes on what was and was not working I turned to those to try and see what issues were causing the biggest trouble.

“Hi, My name is Dave… and I’m a Things-aholic.” 

I was still using Things every day. I was recording tasks on my board and working them, but there were additional items in Things that I worked on and they never made it to the Kanban board. Most of them were personal items, but it did seem kinda of pointless to me to be working with two tools at once. It just divided my focus and make getting anything done that much more complicated.

I decided that I was going to start capturing everything I do on the board. I took everything listed in Things and created a post it for each item. I sorted and grouped the whole thing on my Kanban board. My plan was to try and go one week without using Things. During that time I would rely 100% on the Kanban board.

I made some modifications to the layout of my board as well. I added blocked boxes for some of the swimlanes and also made adjustments to my WIP limits.

I decided that I would start each day with (re)prioritization

I had learned that travel can have a very negative impact on working this way. I had a number of jobs coming up that would require travel. So, I decided to start researching electronic tools so I could test one out during my next trip.

One of the things I have found to be invaluable in this whole process is having the physical board to return to when things break down. There have been a number of events and situations that resulted in me needing to reset my approach.  I’ll be posting about them in the coming weeks. For anyone who is going to try personal kanban, my first advice would be to start out with a physical board and develop good habits with your practice. These will be an important touchstone for you as you work through the changes this approach will have on your work.

The final thing that came out of my retrospective for iterations 3 and 4, was a new question… what should I do about recurring tasks? Was it really going to be worth creating post-its for recurring each item so that there was a card for each one on each day of the week? That seemed ridiculous. I had no answer, but sometimes, just having the question is a good start.