This is the second post in Jim Benson's Personal Kanban series.
Personal kanban is going to have some divergence from industrial kanban. Kanban was designed to visualize products as they moved through a value stream. The focus is on the product (on the value created) and not on the task.
But as people, we are highly task based. Personal kanban recognizes that the creation of personal value is often (but not always) in individual tasks.
Let's take a look at these issues.
No discernable value stream: Personal tasks tend to be highly varied. A “normal” kanban is tracking the movement of predictable value through a fairly static or at least evolving value stream. A personal kanban is tracking disparate tasks through what is often a “not done,” “working on it,” and “done” flow.
What is done: In a normal kanban, "done" is defined as the completed trip through the value stream. But generally, a personal kanban doesn’t have a value stream, so the definition of "done" is highly varied. If your personal task is “call Barry”, which is a legitimate part of your backlog, and you call Barry and leave voice mail, then technically speaking, is that task done? Is it blocked? What is it? If you have a WIP of 5, and you engaged in 5 phone calls and left 5 voice mails, the tasks aren't done, can you no longer work that day?
Prioritization: Prioritization in normal kanban is the logical function of figuring out which things in a fairly homogenous group to do first. Personal prioritization is more complex. Task size, risk assessments, disparate projects and value judgments all play a very real role in the prioritization of personal work.
Size of tasks: At any point in time, your personal kanban can include backlog items like “take out garbage” and “write Smithfield report.” If the Smithfield report will take an entire day and taking out the garbage will take 5 minutes, the varying sizes of non-divisible personal tasks clearly derails the traditional kanban model.
Risk Assessments: In a traditional kanban, risk assessment is a relatively linear function. Does this task - which largely conforms to the other tasks in terms of size and construction - provide the most value to the organization at this time? The opportunity costs are trade-offs between fairly similar objects. With personal tasks, risk and opportunity costs are spread amongst all possible things you could be doing at that time. To include resting. Which brings us to value judgments.
Value Judgments: Value judgments are difficult to make when you have no idea what you are doing, or how you are doing it. With the chaos of personal time management, it is no surprise that people’s personal to-do lists are often wish-lists or responses to crises. Value judgments are easier when you know what’s going on. We tend to habitually overload ourselves with promises, things to do, and things we’d like to do.
Different Types of Work: A traditional kanban usually has tasks for one project, again making them rather predictable. Your personal kanban can include everything you do from your personal and professional life.
Context Shifting: Personal kanban is susceptible to the combination of shifts in context and the fact that you aren’t very scalable. If someone calls you on the phone, your throughput suffers. You need to talk to them. If you get a sudden invitation to coffee from a friend you never see, you want to be able to go – but it will impact your work. If a pipe bursts in your house, you have to deal with it.
Personal kanban is always going to be messier than industrial kanban. The cacophany of tasks that can appear on your board are as varied as life itself. These differences don't make the personal kanban invalid. In my next post I'll discuss the benefits of personal kanban.
The Next Blog Post: The Benefits of Personal Kanban...