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October 23, 2015

What Can a Kanban Do?

Bhanu Khan

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How good is your self-organization?

Have you ever arrived at the office, only to find that you've left your laptop at home? Or carefully packed a nutritious and delicious lunch and then left it wilting on the kitchen counter? Unfortunately, I have.

If you're like me, you'll be a reasonably organized individual who is able to get most things done on time. However, as I get busier, things tend to slip. In the past, when I've relied too heavily on a mental list, some of the "To Do" items on it would tend to… drop off. I'd end up arriving at work without my laptop, even though I'd left it right by the door!

I decided to upgrade my self-organization methods, and began to write things down. However, I didn't always have my notepad with me when I needed to add tasks. I'd write additional tasks onto scraps of paper or the back of receipts with the intention of adding them to the "master list" as soon as possible… You can see where I'm going with this, can't you? Yes, some would make it to the master list, and some would not.

These days I rely on my smartphone. I always have it with me, so it's easy to ensure additional items are put on the master list without fail. It has a calendar on it, so I never forget important dates and I can schedule reminders that correspond to the list items.

This is what works best for me and, I suspect, many others. But what if your events require input from more people than just you? This is where a Kanban board may be useful. Loosely translated to mean "visual sign," a Kanban board is a form of "whiteboard" (real or virtual) that organizations use to keep track of workflow or production processes. Sounds complicated, doesn't it? However, it's just a matter of breaking down an objective into the steps it will take to get the job done.

The beauty of a Kanban board is that it can be used by almost anyone, for all manner of things that involve multiple people or steps to complete. I recently found myself popping up on one (in the form of an initialed yellow dot) when a family member was taken ill. The board showed at a glance who would be taking the caring shift on any given day and night. Further sections were then added: who would be getting the grocery shopping in? What days featured medical appointments that would need to be attended? For a busy (and large) family, this lent cohesion to the situation and saved some time and effort.

Kanban boards needn't be just for adults, though. They can also be an invaluable tool in raising children. Many years ago, I put together a Kanban board for a particularly forgetful child. I printed images of a nicely made-up bed, a toothbrush, clothes, sports kit, and backpack. These items were laminated and attached with Velcro® to the "To-Do" column. He then placed them in the "Done" column as he performed his morning activities. He found the process fun and it stopped my sanity from slipping during the busy pre-school period of our day.

Had I been introduced to the concept of Kanban boards as a child, perhaps I wouldn't have taken so long to find better tools to organize myself. After all, modern times are busy and demanding. The sooner one grasps the steps needed to achieve objectives (whether personal or professional), the better – and if Kanban boards and Velcro® help you do it, then so be it.

In our article, Kanban Boards, we look at how to create and use a Kanban board that will help you keep track of your projects or processes, and will make your workflow more efficient.

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4 comments on “What Can a Kanban Do?”

  1. This is insightful, to ensure we don't loose as we claim to gain more ie being more busy. Ensuring in a glance can keep track and organize ourselves

    1. Hi David,
      I like the 'in a glance' idea to help stay on track. I do that with a paper diary system (even though I love my technology!) so I can see my week in one glance with all my items that I want to focus on that week to do!

  2. I use Trello; it's great for organising things - for myself, or at work with email updates, reminders and real-time updates. There's so much flexibility in how to set it up using labels and filters. I love their iPhone app.

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