In all honesty, I’m not entirely convinced that it’s the best way to manage all projects and tasks…but I could be wrong, it’s still early days yet.
How Did I Start This New Method?
Recently I finished a three-month contract with an organisation that used an agile methodology for their projects across business units.
It was an interesting concept and admittedly, I spent a lot of time wandering around and reading the various boards of stick it notes, palm cards, photos and graphics that the HR business had across their various departments.
Visual boards – or otherwise known as Kanban Boards – were used in this organisation and how teams managed their project. Some of these boards were creative, visual and at a glance, you could see what everyone was working on. Profile photos against projects also made it easier to find the right person to speak to and more importantly, how each project related back to the Business Strategy and objectives. You could immediately see where the risks and challenges were going to be; and where the gaps and opportunities were.
At the start of the week, teams would gather at their boards and provide a status update of where everyone was at and they synchronised it with their interstate teams who replicated the same board in their location.
These boards were highly visible and accessible because they were located along the corridor walls. They also made for some great reading during your lunch hour.
One morning, I decided to take the stairwell and visit every single floor in my building to check out these walls and see how every team created their own Kanban Wall. I wanted to understand what every department was working on.
Pretending I was visiting a museum or an art gallery, I wandered around slowly viewing the walls, peered into meeting rooms, looked out the windows to the city view, pondered over the artwork on the walls; touched the plants to see if they were plastic or real (real); checked out the communal areas; chit chatted with people making their coffees; and just took in the entire experience.
I made all sorts of wonderful discoveries that morning.
For example, they had artwork on one floor from an artist, Clem Milward who is known for Australian landscapes and submitted for an Archibald Prize (I had to look up the artwork that was hanging up on the wall and took some photos of it much to the amusement of people there); two extensive free lending libraries of paperback novels; and a games room) amongst some other things which I will not share here. I nodded in silent approval and felt like that I had taken “time out” from my work to understand the “feeling” of my workplace.
But I digress…
What struck me was that some teams had quite detailed Kanban boards; others a basic one; some none at all. I also noticed that much of the office space areas weren’t signposted so I had no idea what department or section I was walking through. (Except for Marketing – you can always tell where they are because they have the big screen TV and lots of marketing posters and sponsor paraphernalia lying about)…
All I saw were people at desks in front of screens doing work or reading the news on their intranet, talking to customers on the phones, or conducting discussions in meeting rooms.
However, standing in front of the Kanban walls gave me an idea of what that team was working on. In all cases, someone saw me standing in front of them, introduced themselves and asked if they could explain anything. So the Kanban Boards were a great conversation starter.
My Current Methods of Planning
You may know that I use the Bullet Journal to capture all the tasks and activities I need to complete through the year.
It’s known as the Analog System for the Digital Age and uses my love of notebooks (and the pure satisfaction of crossing out items with a black texta marker). However, in the last few months, I have noticed my “meatier” projects dropping by the wayside and my bullet journal becoming a simple To Do list.
That is, the more critical projects that are required to meet my long term, monthly or 3-monthly or annual goals are discarded as I prefer to do the quick and simple tasks just to mark them off as complete.
Of course, this is NOT the fault of the journal. It is totally MY fault for focussing on short term gains over long term goals.
My Personal Kanban Board
I started my own personal kanban board and wrote my tasks in black marker on sticky notes. There are three columns: TO DO; IN PROGRESS and DONE.
As I complete an activity, I move it through the board and at a glance can see what has been achieved.
However, I’m now finding that the SAME thing is happening as was happening with my Bullet Journal. I prefer to do the ‘Quick Wins’ just to get the post it notes over to the ‘DONE’ column.
That’s definitely a “user error” and not a system error. Argh.
So what I see happening is that every activity associated with a long-term goal is moved into Progress and I cannot see the level of detail such as the steps required to achieve that goal and whether they’re in progress or being completed.
In the past, I used a 90 Day Planner Template (created by the Outcomes Business Group) which was separated into 12 separate weeks aligned to 90 Day Business Goals and 12-month Business Goal. Each week, you stipulated what you wanted to achieve against your monthly targets which were categorised as Mastery; Marketing; Systems; and Learning. It was a template that my business coach had given me and written on A3 cardboard that was always on hand and nearby.
The system worked until the enormity of the work ahead for the year overcame me and that’s when I decided the bullet journal was a lot easier for me.
However, I’m now rethinking the entire process!
The Kanban process is a nice to look at the board but I haven’t linked it back to what my goals are. It also doesn’t give me the level of detail needed to see how all my tasks fit into the BIGGER PICTURE.
The answer is that I have to change my behaviour and mindset again and refocus on the longer term goals and COMMITT to a system that will help me work towards my goals…not float about willy nilly.
So my first step is to go back to my 90 Day Planner and recreate an online version of it using say, Excel – or some spreadsheet – then print it off and have a daily, weekly action plan with written monthly, 3-monthly and annual goals. Having it on the ONE page and where it is highly VISIBLE, I can refer to it rather than move post it notes around or flick through wads of pages on a notebook.
That will be my task for the next week!
Here’s some videos on each of the methods mentioned.
Agile Project Management with Kanban
The Bullet Journal
So What About a Video On My Own Process?
And here is the entire snap story that explains how I experimented with these productivity tools – although thanks to Simon Fogg (@srjf) , I’ll now also be checking into Trello again and customising how I use that. Maybe I can use Trello to customise it into my own 90-day planner??? Blog post to follow to see how that works.
It’s interesting to note that this snap story had MORE views and engagement with people than other snap stories in the past. So much so that it leads me to believe that people are interested in learning how to streamline their work and tasks.
A number of people had direct messaged me on Twitter or sent me personal messages on Snapchat. Everyone is saying that I should give Trello another go and change the way I’m using Trello to create boards based on GOALS not PROJECTS. So now I’m changing tack and giving Trello another go as a goal setting and tracking planner.
So here’s what I did instead…it’s all in the video….ignore the Eric Clapton chipmunk music…
Image: By Jeff.lasovski – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19121595