Kanban in the Home

Those of you that haven’t read Dominica Degrandis’ book Making Work Visible are missing out. Over the years I’ve adopted the idea that I should be the same person at work as I am at home. I know plenty of people who have a work personality but then change it to meet the environment in their home. I couldn’t be that person. I tried, but it just didn’t seem to make sense to me.  I like being the same at work and at home.  I also like using the same tools when they make sense.

It’s not easy.  It takes effort.  I work really hard to make sure I’m the same person at work and at home. If there’s a technique that works to help organize the efforts among different stakeholders at work, I try to use it on the different stakeholders in the house.  A teenage boy and a teenage girl each have their own perspectives on life.  A distance education collegiate spouse has her own perspective. Then there’s an almost teenage boy and a nine year old who are both wonderful and full of energy—constantly inviting one slew of kids in the neighborhood over to play a game of school or make snacks.

With all of us doing different activities and having different perspectives the techniques in Making Work Visible help to keep us coordinated. On one non-prominent wall in the house I made a Kanban board. Nothing fancy, just some painters tape and a few typed titles for the columns. On this Kanban we’ve got three major columns with the middle being sub divided.  The major columns are In Queue, In Progress, and Done. In Progress is divided up into Preparation, Doing, and Feedback.

Feedback is used so we always have someone else check our work. If it’s me and yard work, my wife checks. If it’s my wife and school work, her professor checks (and grades) her assignments. For the kids one of us will check their work and so on. Not everyone in the family is required to participate, but those who do can easily see their accomplishments accumulate.

To help keep things organized we let each family member pick a color. Mine is orange. I’m not a fan of orange, but I do love how the bright color allows me to see the work I have on my plate and what I’ve been able to accomplish.

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At work the Kanban boards have been very helpful as well. I wrote a paper on it for work, but it’s still under review and because I produced it for my employer, I’ll have to ask for specific permission to re-post it here.

While I don’t have that permission yet I can tell you that many of the same techniques Dominica Degrandis uses in the book have applications in multiple settings. Using the tools in my work setting and in my home setting has helped me try different Kanban techniques. I’ve brought these lessons learned from one setting to the next and significantly reduced the amount of time it’s taken me to effectively use the tool.  I’ve been successful enough at it that the other day I got a photo from Mexico.  Someone whom I’d worked with snatched the Kanban format I was using in Boise and brought it to their office and was loving the way it made work visible!

Making Work Visible

It’s that time again. I’ve been reading a new book, and it’s time for the book list to get updated. This time it’s the book Making Work Visible by Dominica Degrandis. The book started with a story I could relate to. A husband working on the honey-do-list being asked by his wife to start an entirely different project. She was asking while he was atop a rotting roof to tear it and the out building it belonged to apart. That’s a bit more dramatic than any of the situations where similar things have happened to me, but it was certainly a moment I could relate to.

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Dominica does an excellent job in the piece discussing the need and techniques to make work visible in areas where work is less visible than a husband standing atop a roof. The IT sector contains many examples of areas where work is invisible to those who consume and appreciate the effort. Dominica’s techniques help to bring forth this work in ways that are digestible by the passer-by and those who deeply study the output.

This book is ideal for anyone who has done work or plans on doing work in the future.

While I’ll tell the full story another day, I can say that this book emerged in my life at the right time to help a very large project focus on the work that would add the most value and now it’s gotten the interest of the leaders who saw how effective its techniques were.  It sort of feels like having to get called into the principle’s office to explain myself, but in a good way.