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Six Personal Kanban Habits to Avoid

by Jim Benson
January 12, 2017

Six Personal Kanban Habits to Avoid

by Jim Benson
January 12, 2017 | Comments (2)

I teach Personal Kanban, a way of identifying, organizing and providing context for your work that is designed to help you go beyond more productivity—and experience greater efficiency and real effectiveness. The practice has four fundamental components (identify the steps that create value in your work, identify and prioritize the work that you need to do as a result, limit your work in process so that you are not doing too much at once, and allow a pull system to keep you focused on doing the most important tasks.)

This visual tool (which is based on lean principles and techniques) to organize and manage your personal work is meant to be as clear and simple as possible—a way to help people make more conscious and informed decisions about the actions they take.

And yet, through my tenure as a kanban specialist, I’ve seen more mistakes on kanban boards than I can count. Here are six that I see more often than any others. Be sure to keep an eye out for them on your existing or future kanban projects!

  1. No Work-in-Progress (WIP) Limits - If your board doesn't have a WIP limit, it's not a kanban board. Too much material can leave you distracted, confused, and yes, facing existential overhead. Limiting WIP promotes completion and clarity. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

  2. No Introspection - Throwing away the DONE column without studying the tickets takes the "S" (Study) out of the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle! Intentional introspection helps you balance the myriad factors that have affected any pragmatic decision you’ve made, and better understand whether your priorities truly balance your needs and emotions.

  3. Letting Size Rule - Only putting "big" tickets on the board means you never fully understand your work. It also serves as an impediment to the quality of “flow” needed for a pull system to operate.

  4. Keeping Secrets - Hiding work from the board invites undermining your WIP limit systematically.

  5. Working in the Closet - Not letting others see your board means you or your team will only locally optimize.

  6. Littered Floor - Use Super Sticky Post-Its or watch your work fall to the floor.

For solutions to these and many other common mistakes on kanban boards, stop by Jim Benson’s Learning Session, Personal Kanban, at this year’s Lean Transformation Summit in Carlsbad, CA on March 7-8. Learn more and register.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  kanban,  personal kanban
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Jeremy Miller January 12, 2017

This is super helpful. I find it so helpful because so many of these hit way too close to home.

I find it really hard to stick to my personal kanban board because it is hard for me to estimate how long it will take me to do a task. This may simply be an excuse I give myself for not being more diligent in sticking to the principles of kanban, but any insights into helping this dynamic?

Thank you for the article and further guidance and encouragement for sticking it out and utilizing kanban to be more effective.


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Andy January 20, 2017

This is great.... I have used kanban as an iPad app - but without prolonged success (because I was doing the things noted in the article). This has inspired me to try it using the post-it version with some of my colleagues. Thank you....

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