Friday, October 27, 2023

Louder Than Ten Goes Full CoOp!

Louder Than Ten is a Vancouver-based Project Management Training and Consulting company. L>10 was founded by Rachel and Travis Gertz, and for the past 14 years, everything they have done has been centered around fostering healthy and humane ways of working together and managing projects. There aren’t many organizations in the digital agency space that have taken the time to develop their own project management manifesto. It is truly a unique place and now, as they do, Rachel and Travis have cranked up the volume just a scosche higher by converting their company into a Worker Owned Cooperative. This means that new employees who join Louder than Ten will have an option to purchase a stake in the company and become an equal partner. This is a far cry from the sweatshop grind-it-out approach that many agencies take and it is definitely unique in the context of what is happening in the field of project management today. 

In this episode, Rachel and Travis join me to explain why they took this step to completely transform their company and how they went about doing it. 

You can find the video version of the interview here.

You can find the audio version of the interview here.

Also, as you can see from the picture above, they have some totally badass merch. If there is a project manager in your life, remember, the holidays are right around the corner.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

It's Not You, It's Me... Breaking up with my Personal Kanban Board

 On November 1st, Tim Nolan, Mark Kilby, and I will be kicking off a six-week Personal Kanban course for Modus Institute. We are all really looking forward to helping others get started with Personal Kanban and amp up their game when it comes to getting a better handle on all the things they are trying to do. It is a very powerful system, and it has taught me volumes about how to optimize my ability to show up for people and be productive. (You can learn more about the course here:

One of the most powerful things about this approach is that it is not a static system. It is always waiting to teach you something new - if/when you are ready to hear it.

 It’s Not You, It’s Me

My Personal Kanban board and I just broke up. It’s the second time in six months. I thought we could make it work. Sometimes things just don’t work out. Now there is nothing but me, way too many things to do, and an REO Speedwagon playlist. 

You should have seen by the look in my eyes, baby

There was something missin'

You should have known by the tone of my voice, maybe

But you didn't listen

I’m not done with Personal Kanban - just that particular board layout.

I stopped using a physical board a few months ago because I wasn’t always around it when I needed to make updates. It was also too small to hold all the stuff I needed to do. So I set everything up in Miro and used that as a Product Backlog, writing by hand the things I wanted to do each day in a little notebook I carry with me everywhere. What is in the notebook is a checklist (Jim is frowning) but I think of it more as the personal parallel of a Sprint Backlog. Items are color-coded by priority. For me, there is something about the effort required to handwrite stuff each day, plus shading them with a prioritization color that I find rewarding. It's like I am paying respect to the work item by writing it out by hand (#handspunproductivity). Also, I’m a project manager and I like checking things off a list. 

But lately, that hasn’t worked either. I have so much stuff in Miro and so much in the notebook, and all of a sudden I’m also capturing reminders in my phone. The whole system just kinda broke down and was failing to serve me. 

 On the flight back from Atlanta on Friday, I wrote down all the things I needed to do in my notebook. It took three pages. TMGDWIP!

This happens… to everyone… grab a towel and some salty snacks and DO NOT PANIC! It’s all ok. 

I had a system. It worked great for a time, but it was clearly time to “high school break up” with my board.

You played dead

But you never bled

Instead, you laid still in the grass

All coiled up and hissin' 

Imagine your Kanban board (or however you are visualizing your work) was someone you’d been trying to date. And you’ve hit the wall. The level of annoyance and irritation has overcome the fear of emotional discomfort that comes with the idea of separating from someone or something you’ve grown comfortable with. (Just because you are in pain does not mean you are uncomfortable.) It’s time for the “It’s not you, it’s me” conversation… because 100%, it is totally you. Your situation has changed and that board fits you like the pants you wore when you were 10 lbs. lighter.  

If you could sit down with your work - however you visualize it - and have an open, honest conversation about how that model is helping, how it is no longer helping, and (because it’s totally you…) what parts you are clinging to and can’t let go of it (just like that person you dated in high school). Gev from Modus has a sign on her board asking, “Dear Kanban, How are you lying to me today?” Mine has, “Dear Kanban, what are you shouting at me that I am completely refusing to hear?” Somewhere in the middle is the information you need to start over. 

Getting (re)started

Before you just launch into a new visualization of your work, take some time to be intentional about the next step. 

What problem are you trying to solve?


This is question #1. Is it too much WIP? Keeping track of everything? Do you just want to visualize everything so you can see what is on the table? Maybe a combination of all of that? Maybe you aren’t even sure what the question is yet and you need a model that will help you figure out how this system can teach you to be more efficient. Before you set up a new Kanban, understand what it needs to be able to do for you and design it to run an experiment to see if it can help solve that problem. It is not just about getting cards moved across a board. The system has to serve you and your understanding of how and why you work so that you can make truly intentional choices about what the next right step is.

For me, I’m at the point where I already know that any visualization is 100% going to show me I have too much going on. I’m also currently not ready to let go of any of it. So, my current quest is how to establish a prioritization technique I can hold in front of me and use it to drive my choices whenever it is time to take something new on. Visualizing it is important because you need to get it out of your head. The stress and cognitive load that come from trying to carry everything in your head is a real thing. It takes a toll. Externalize it so that you can understand what is in front of you and understand your options. 

Your boards will crash because they solved a problem that is different from the one you now face. That is part of growth and even though it can be a drag, it is totally normal. And keep in mind that no matter how long you do this stuff, the vigilance required for hyper-productivity takes a tool and each of us sometimes needs to just chill and watch Fboy Island for a bit. (It’s not gonna watch itself.)

On November 1st, Tim Nolan, Mark Kilby, and I will be kicking off a six-week Personal Kanban course for Modus Institute. If you are new to it, we can help get you started. If you are already using Personal Kanban, we can help you tune your system into a high-performing, WIP-limiting engine that will help you take greater agency with all the things that you do. Follow this link to learn more:





Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The DrunkenPM Radio Monthly Newsletter

I've started a monthly newsletter!  The first issue is out and I'm including links to the podcasts I produce both on my own and for LeadingAgile, short articles, and tips to help with Agile, Project Management, and Personal Kanban. It will include odd bits of nonsense and musical recommendations as well. 

Click here to sign up for the DrunkenPM Radio Monthly Newsletter!

Monday, October 09, 2023

Using Personal Kanban to Start Agile Transformation with Michael Grill

Michael Grill is a Product Owner and Head of Process and Methods in the Agile Practice at Knorr-Bremse, and they have taken steps to address this challenge of helping individuals adopt an agile mindset and practices in managing their day-to-day work by adopting Personal Kanban before they put them together on agile teams. In this interview, Michael joins me to share how Knorr-Bremse came to make this choice and how it is deeply impacting their agile practice. First, you begin working with Personal Kanban, then you and your team members begin working together using PK, and then you adopt practices from Scrum, Kanban, or other forms of agile, to get the work done. 

You can find the podcast and links to learn more here.