Informed Librarian Online -- A Bit of Bytes -- www.informedlibrarian.com
Yes I Kanban, and So Can
Howdy, Tech Talkers! Dana DeFebbo
here filling in temporarily for Jenna as she finishes her PhD program. Since
writing my first Tech Talk column in July of 2013, I have moved to Austin, TX,
the land of killer breakfast tacos, live music, and a major hub for tech
companies like Google, IBM, and Apple. This month I’m covering a project
management method called Kanban that I have picked up from the local tech
While I would love to focus on how
you can introduce these tools to your respective organizations, it is often hard
to get organizational buy in for new tools without having personally used them
first. Therefore, I’m going to focus on how you can use this project
management system and corresponding tools to manage your own personal projects
at work and at home.
First a brief intro to
Kanban. Kanban was first developed in Japan by Toyota Motor Company. It was
intended to show transparency and make sure everyone from line workers to
managers saw the whole process and not just pieces of it. Many major players in
the software industry have adopted Kanban into their work flow, especially when
they are employing the Agile project management methodology because it focuses
on teams and collaboration.
Two main elements of
- Visualize your work - Physically write or type out
tasks you need to accomplish and identify 1) what needs to be done, 2) what is
in progress, and 3) what is completed.
- Limit your work in progress (WIP) - Set a number
of tasks you will allow to be in progress before moving on to new tasks.
This process can be done in a no-tech
way with sticky notes and a flat surface or it can be done electronically with
Using Kanban to manage and prioritize
your tasks doesn't require any software at all. You can simply use sticky notes
and a flat surface, most often a wall or a whiteboard. You then make at minimum
three columns to designate work to be done, work in progress, and completed
As you start working on tasks, you move the sticky
note from the To Do stage to the In Progress stage, and then to the Completed
stage once they are finished. Kanban goes one step further by imposing limits
on how many tasks are allowed to remain in the In Progress stage before
beginning to work on new tasks. Imposing this limit forces you to prioritize
your tasks and it also limits how many tasks you try to do at any one time.
Limiting your WIP may also reduce the burnout you might feel when trying to
multitask. The limit is arbitrary and should be set by you. It could be 1 or
10, or any other number you specify. For me personally, I have set my work in
progress limit at 3.
You may find that the
basic three column layout is not flexible enough for you. Maybe you would like
to add a column for "Waiting" if you are waiting for a reply or further action
from someone else. Or maybe you might want to add another column for Hold if
something that you are working on has become stalled. This is a way to remove
things from your To Do or WIP columns that are not finished but now have a low
priority to complete. You can find more examples of Personal Kanban boards with
a Google Image search: http://goo.gl/ug8b6QTrello
is a virtual Kanban board that has a bit more functionality than a physical one.
It is also useful for collaborating with team members. At its core, it is a
simple cloud based Kanban board where you can create tasks that you can drag and
drop from one column to another as you complete
Here are some features that you get using
Trello that do not exist with a physical Kanban:
- Labels for filtering tasks
- Due Dates
- Collaboration with other people
- Assign tasks to people
- Calendar integration
- Notifications of activity
- Integration* with other apps like Dropbox, Slack, etc.
*free accounts are allowed
only one integration, vs unlimited with paid
If you are considering giving
Kanban a try, I recommend starting out with the simple no-tech method of sticky
notes and a wall. As you get more comfortable with the process, you will likely
find that you would like increased functionality that the physical process can't
give you and makes it easier to transition to a virtual version.
Copyright 2017 by Dana
About the author:
Dana DeFebbo is currently the Web Services
Librarian at the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas at Austin School
of Law. She received her MSIS for the State University of New York at Albany and
has worked in academic libraries for the past 11 years.