Desktop Kanban

It is a common understanding that some of the biggest benefits of agile, scrum and kanban is found by teams, however when working alone, how can you maximise some of the techniques successfully employed by agile teams?

Challenges That Agile Could Solve

In my role at McKenna Consultants, not only am I part of the team, working as a Product Owner and helping to test, define and deliver features to our clients, but I also spend a large proportion of my time working alone, delivering agile training, coaching and consultancy, marketing our services and also doing the jobs that no one else wants to do (usually all of the admin and accounts)! This means that I have two challenges that agile could easily solve:

  • I have no clear visibility of my work
  • I find that I can easily end up task switching

Now it wouldn’t make sense for me to clutter up the team’s JIRA board with all of my individual tasks, nor would it make sense for me to create a “secret” Trello, JIRA or Wunderlist board, so I need a more innovative solution…

Managing Solo Work on a Week-by-Week Basis

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Desktop Kanban!

Desktop Kanban at McKenna Consultants

Inspired by Agnes, a Product Owner who I have had the pleasure of training and coaching over the last year (and probably the best Product Owner that I have ever worked with!), I have developed my own way of managing my work on a week by week basis. Agnes, manages her endless list of requests, tasks, issues and ideas by covering the surface of her desks with post it notes, and it continually tearing them up as she ruthlessly completes task after task. This led me to a great idea – I could do something similar, but using a simple kanban!

Here is how my kanban system works:

  • I keep a digital copy of all of my tasks on Wunderlist. This means that I have a back up, I can work from anyway and also my team can add tasks to my backlog as they please.
  • On a daily basis I quickly plan what I need to do and prioritise my list.
  • Any new tasks I then add to my desktop kanban.
  • At the end of the week I clear out the Done column (with a huge sense of satisfaction) and get ready to go round again.
  • The colours show me at a glance what type of work it is: customer, admin, marketing, agile etc.
  • The Doing and Stuck column are deliberately smaller, to enforce a WIP (work in progress) limit of 3 items – which is about my limit of task switching and responding to new urgent requests.
  • Stuck means stuck. It doesn’t mean that I need a break, it means that I have done all that I possibly can do and I am most likely waiting on someone/thing else to progress this item further.

The benefits of working like this are suddenly clear to see. I now have visibility of my work. Likewise, so do my teammates, so when they wander over to ask something, they can see there and then what I am working on and how busy I am (or not). I can now concentrate on no more than 3 things at once, which means that I am now getting more done. The phrase of stop starting and start finishing is quickly becoming a favourite of mine! There is also a huge sense of satisfaction seeing all of the completed tasks add up for me at the end of the week!

If you work on your own tasks quite often, and want to add some visability, order and fun, have a go at setting up your own desktop kanban – who said agile is only for teams?!