• RichYarnold

Can You Kanban?

For those of you who are experienced in Lean or Agile, you’ll know all about Kanban and how useful it is in managing tasks and workloads. For those of you who aren’t as clued-up on the tool then here’s a quick overview.

Kanban is a visual work management tool that shows what stage tasks and work items are at. These stages are To Do, In Progress and Done. There’s also a Blocked stage which you add items to when you can’t progress them for any reason.

Each work task is captured on a card or post-it note, along with other information such as the project it refers to, the priority, the owner, any relevant reference numbers and why it’s blocked. You can add any info to the cards that you feel is relevant.

These cards move around the Kanban board based on what stage they’re at and gives a great overall view of the work you’ve got on and they can be physical or digital. If you want to know more there’s an excellent article which I recently shared on LinkedIn. Click here to access it.

I’ve used both physical and digital Kanban boards in my time and they are a fantastic way to drive collaboration within project teams. It brings everyone together and creates a focal point to drive progress on the most important tasks and ensures not one person has too much work. What I hadn’t realised until recently is that you can use the principles and framework of Kanban to manage your own personal to do list and project tasks.

As a Business Analyst I currently get involved in many different projects that require me to process detailed information to support varied objectives, all at the same time. I see this as an opportunity to learn loads about the organisation I am working for and find it flattering that they want me to get involved in loads of stuff. It does mean that I work extra hard to make sure I’m on top of everything and manage my time accordingly. To do this I use a personal Kanban board to manage all my tasks. Here's how mine looks.

I use the same approach as detailed above with the four columns – Blocked, To Do, In Progress and Done and have strict definitions for each.

  • Blocked = A task that I cannot progress because I am waiting for someone else to do something.

  • To Do = A task I have taken ownership of but have not yet started

  • In Progress = A task I am working on at that time – usually a piece of analysis work or writing user stories. It will stay in this stage as long as I have everything I need to progress it to completion.

  • Done = The task is fully complete and the work product delivered.

For each task I create a virtual post-it note with that contains the following information.

  • Project – The name of the project the work task is associated with

  • Stakeholder -Who I am delivering the piece of work for and who I could go to for guidance or escalation

  • Action – the piece of work I need to complete

  • Priority – An indication of whether it is a High, Medium or Low priority piece of work

  • Blocked by – If the item is blocked, then this is where I capture why it’s blocked and what I need to unblock it.

I find this way of tracking my workload invaluable. It gives me a snapshot of what I currently have on and allows me to manage it accordingly. It also allows me to ensure I am working on the top priority actions and create visibility of blocked items. It also gives me a tool I can use with stakeholders, peers and leaders if I need to escalate anything, or have conversations about my workload. It gives me way more insight that a simple to do list with some completion dates on it. Why not give it a go and let me know what you think?

I’d love to read your feedback on the blog and whether you have found Kanban useful for managing personal to do lists. You can leave a comment below, or contact me via Twitter or LinkedIn. You can subscribe to my blog by clinking on the Login / Register button at the top of the page. We don’t ask for any personal data apart from your email address.


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