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The Caffeinated Geek Tech Obsessed in Winnipeg

I’ve been finding myself working on too many things at once to be effective.  Things get 80% finished and then either forgotten until an external stimulus reminds me to complete it or languish far longer on the ‘to do’ pile than they should.

I’ve been doing a LOT of thinking / reading /experimenting with Kanban for software development teams.  I am even attending a Kanban Coaching Workshop next week with David Anderson (@agilemanager). 

I have seen people tweet about “Personal Kanban” and thought this might be an effective technique for me.  Certainly worth a try and may give me further insights into Kanban that I haven’t experienced with team Kanban.

The main principle for Kanban is to limit work in progress.  The goal is to finish what you start before you start something else.  This is accomplished with a Kanban board where you put the things you are working on and what their status is.


You have columns or areas for a ‘backlog’ where you put all the things you need to get to, an ‘in progress’ where you put the things you are working on, and a ‘done’.  You can have different columns to match how you work, but this is the simplest case.  The key is that there is a limit on the number of items (kanban’s) that can be in the ‘in progress’ state.  So, before you can start working on something new, you have to complete something that is ‘in progress’. 

The exact number of items allowed in the wip state needs to be determined through experience but a number like 5 seems to make sense.  I can’t keep more than that many things in my memory at a time and fewer than that may not allow me to work on urgent unplanned things and lower urgency items at the same time (like keeping up with reading).

To learn about Personal Kanban, chick out this excellent resource.  There is even a Personal Kanban 101.

Because I travel (or am travelling) a lot right now, a physical Kanban Board isn’t really an option.  Luckily there are many options for virtual or computer based Kanban boards.  I’ve decided to use the TFS Work Item Manager task view with a customized TFS project for mine.  I am experienced with using it for managing team tasks and know the developers :) )

I’ll keep you updated as to how things are working out for me.

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Posted on Saturday, February 20, 2010 5:50 AM | Back to top

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