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Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life 1.3.2011 Edition
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- Carmen Medina: Director of Intelligence (Retired) Central Intelligence Agency: Personal Kanban is a must read for knowledge workers and their leaders who recognize that old productivity models don't apply to knowledge work and seek a more realistic and centered approach. The ideas are deceptively simple but in that simplicity is their strength. As soon as I finished reading it, I started drawing out the landscape of my projects and felt much the better for it.
- Ross Mayfield: CEO of SocialText: Personal productivity systems usually fail in practice because of complexity and they don't reflect the collaborative nature of real work. Personal Kanban provides the simplest structure that could possibly work and lets you achieve a state of flow.
- Jerry Michalski: guide, Relationship Economy eXpedition: Trying to get more effective? Why use Rube Goldberg systems of tabulated notebooks and special-purpose inserts? Instead, consider a system that flows like a stream and focuses your attention, both on the task at hand and on making your process more effective. That's what Personal Kanban is, and it may just fit your thinking and doing style.
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Aside from the practice, the book is clear and practical, with doses of philosophy stirred in with the practicality. It's definitely worth a read, and the technique is easy to try. See if it works for you.
Why my self imposed deadlines become meaningless.
Why I used to be really productive and effective and the last few years have not.
Why I have felt so exasperatingly overwhelmed even on days when there is nothing I actually have to do.
Not just another time management system (I have plenty), but a way out of the stress and overwhelm of work that keeps coming at me. Of incomplete tasks nagging at me and keeping me awake.
This book deals with the disconnect between our brains and the modern multitasking/deadline driven world. It is well written a doable.
I loved the system, I have implemented it, I am sleeping better. My backlog of projects hasn't disappeared, but somehow making them tangible has also made them manageable...and I am actually getting to them one by one.
Personal Kanban allows the vital communication between staff members and with management to be fluid. People, in my experience, want to do their jobs well and want to be a part of a group that allows individuals to make decisions and be responsible for their part without the need for orders. PK is a focal point that fosters total participation.
Both are techniques that were created for product development teams and were a response to process heavy up-front planning known as 'waterfall development'. Without having some context of working on a product development team actually implementing Agile processes, I think a lot of readers might not get as much out of the book.
The basic process of kanban is to post 'stickies' to a board in a 'Ready', 'Doing', 'Done' column.
There are 2 rules:
1) Limit the Work in Progress (ideally no more than 3 things at a time)
2) Visualize the work
Concepts like the backlog may get lost on some people, as well as references to Taichi Ohno unless you work in the world of product development.
Nonetheless the book is pretty good. In particular, I like how it emphasized the concept of flowing work, and reducing cycle time on tasks, instead of trying to do a lot of things at once. I know I'm guilty of procrastinating on items and thinking to myself that I can get a lot done by attacking multiple things at once.
Also, the book is right to point out that humans are not like a 'glass of water' that contain work. We are more like a 'machine' that processes work. So Throughput and FLOW are more important concepts than capacity. Having breaks between work is necessary because otherwise the work jams up and throughput slows down (think traffic jam on a highway - it's caused by too many cars on the road, and not enough space between the cars).
I'd give this book 5 stars, but I feel the author needs to take a step back in certain places and explain fundamental concepts more clearly. That and there is a bit (though not too much) fluff in the book. For example, unless you have something new to say on Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, it's best not mentioned in a productivity book - the pyramid is vastly overused and taken out of context - which may have been the case here.
My other mixed criticism, is that the appendix is the only place where the author really shows a few case studies of the Kanban boards in action. This is one of the most useful parts of the books, and the idea of providing a dedicated 'swim lane' or means of visualizing work on a particular project is great. The way the board juxtaposes this against the higher level every day stuff is very instructive and useful, I wish there was more of these case studies throughout the book.
Overall a good book.
I would supplement with the following:
Getting Things Done
Pomodoro Technique Illustrated
It's a lot of reading but well worth it in my opinion if you really want to develop an actionable system that manages workflow.