Kanban Made Easy!

Kanban is a great way to organize work when a simple “To-Do” list just ins’t quite cutting it.  Those To-Do lists always seem to grow faster than tasks are completed, and we can quickly get overwhelmed and frustrated.  Kanban lends some relief to common To-Do list woes by focusing on these three things:

1. Visualizing your Work
2. Limiting Work in Progress (WIP)
3. Producing Flow

What’s more is that it’s simple to get started with.  Select a location for your Kanban Board in a nearby, public, high-traffic area where everyone who needs to can gather, see and have a discussion around the Board.  Make three columns: “TO DO” “DOING” and “DONE.”  Write down all the tasks on stickies or note-cards and place them in the “TO DO” column.  Try to give them some order or priority.  Congratulations, you’ve just visualized your work.

Now for the fun part.  Decide on a WIP limit for the “DOING” column.  Studies suggest that we’re really only good at doing 1 or 2 things at a time.  After that, we’re spending a lot of time switching between tasks and we loose efficiency.  As you have availability in the “DOING” column, pull in tasks from the “TO DO” column, but only as many as your WIP limit.  When the task is completely finished, pull it into the “DONE” column.

This pulling action along with the limited work in progress produces flow.  People and teams using Kanban will start to notice it appears things are getting done more quickly, and more things are getting done overall.  This sense of accomplishment creates built in positive feedback.  As we see more and more things in the “DONE” column, we’re excited to pull more and more tasks to “DOING” and “DONE,” creating more and more flow!

We’ve seen Kanban used successfully in a variety of situations.  Among the most popular places are support or help desks – very useful in handling high volumes of support tickets without overwhelming the people doing the work.  We’ve also seen Kanban be successful in other diverse areas such as sales backlog management and even wedding/event planning!

Also cross-posted here:  http://www.centare.com/kanban-made-easy/

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