Last fall, a programmer friend of mine explained the task management system called Kanban. The concept originates from a Japanese system of just-in-time production in factories and such, though I’m not sure how relevant that is to how I’m using it. Here’s a two-minute video explaining some of the philosophy in a manufacturing context. I also understand that Kanban is popular in agile programming.
For me, it’s a real-world task list arranged into three columns: queue, current tasks and completed tasks. An important aspect of Kanban is that the system be highly visible, usually on a wall. Here’s our very simple setup in our home office:
You can see more photos of kanban setups here.
The visibility enables other team members to see what you’re working on. The physicality of the system feels important, in that you’re actually moving the sticky notes as you complete and queue up tasks. A friend compared it to the tile system that air traffic controllers use. In the terms of original concept, each of the sticky notes is a ‘kanban’.
At Capulet and at a client site, we’ve found it to be a simple but effective way to manage tasks, a real improvement over plain text lists or Remember the Milk. I’ve sold a few other people on Kanban, and they seem to dig it too. It’s like I’m in the Getting Things Done For Dummies cult.
If you have diffiiculty keeping track of your and your coworkers tasks, I’d recommend giving Kanban a try.