how to use kanban to optimise your actvities fast

November 2019 Chris Lewis

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a popular Agile tool used in software development but it can also be easily applied in other areas of expertise, e.g. marketing or gardening! Its main purpose is continuous improvement of a team or individual’s productivity. This is done by visualising the ‘end to end’ workflow in one view, thus determining the most optimal approach to achieving project goals. Simply put, if your project or activity can be broken down into steps as part of a process then Kanban can help. It is a great way to understand issues as they arise and take the necessary steps in a timely manner to resolve them.

Kanban board

The basis of a classic Kanban board typically has three columns that consist of:

  • ‘To Do’

  • ‘Work in Progress’

  • ‘Done’

Items are organised by priority with the most important at the top. Some people (teams) will add a “Blocked” column to highlight items that cannot be progressed. This allows a quick way to manage and highlight blocked items, and to support continuous flow.

A secret of an effective Kanban board

In the above diagram, the Kanban board has bracket numbers next to each status. This represents the Work In Progress (WiP) limit. This references the maximum number of items that should be in a column at any one time. If it looks as if a column will exceed this maximum, then the next action is to figure out how to avoid it happening to ensure the workflow is not slowed down, or worse blocked! For example, what items can be focused on and completed in order to be moved to the next column easily to support the flow. Therefore, it is important that the Kanban board is reviewed regularly.

 

Application

A Kanban board can be further customised to support your work flow for a particular situation. To give you a flavour of the way it can be applied, here a few examples

  • A personal Kanban to manage personal activities in order to avoid being overwhelmed.

  • A sales Kanban that is tracking an opportunity could have columns labelled – Prospecting, Additional Study, Proposals sent to Client, Awaiting Response, Sales Closed and Sales Rejected.

  • A job hunting Kanban that tracks multiple actions could have columns labelled – Potential Position Identified, Application Sent, Interview Preparation, Attend Interview, Offer Received, Unsuccessful

  • A project Kanban that tracks multiple projects could have columns labelled – Requirements, Design, Ready to Start, In Progress, Liaised with Clients and Done.

  • A writing book Kanban board that tracks multiple books in development could have columns labelled – Idea, Write, Copy Edit, Beta Read, Proofread and Publish.

Don’t forget to:

  • Prioritise items by importance

  • Use and respect your WIP limit

  • Review Kanban board regularly

© 2020 by Chris Lewis