Kanban, an easy tutorial

Nicolas Dirand The May 2, 2012

This tutorial is a very short introduction to Kanban made for everyone.

You will learn the basics of Kanban, step by step, and understand why we love it so much.

In fact, Kanban is so simple, that I had a hard time to understand it the first time.

First you need a white board and post-its, or spreadsheet software like Excel.

Create 3 columns.

Column  number 1: – You add all the tasks you have to do.

Column number 2: - This is your current work in progress column.

You add in this column all the tasks you are working on at the moment.

You should keep a finite and limited number of tasks in it, like 2 or 3.

I will refer to this column as WIP.

Column number 3: –  The tasks you have done.

The basic work flow is something like this.

Step 1).  

Select the tasks you want to do today.

Do not think you are superman and select more then 4 tasks.

The average number of tasks you can do in one day should be a good number.

Your Kanban board  should look like this now.

Tasks  Work In Progress (max:3)  Tasks done
improve user interface
study network theory
play arma2
chapter 8 of my NLP book
learn facebook API
one hour of sport

Step 2).  

Populate the ‘Work in Progress’ column

   

Tasks

 Work In Progress (max:3)

 Tasks done

improve user interface

study network theory

play arma2

learn facebook API

chapter 8 of my NLP book

one hour of sport

Step 3).

Do the work.

Select one task from the WIP column, and start to work on it.

Step 4). 

When the task is done, move it from column #2 [WIP]  to column #3 [task done].

   

Tasks

 Work In Progress (max:3)

  Tasks done

improve user interface

learn facebook API

study network theory

play arma2

chapter 8 of my NLP book

one hour of sport

Step 5).

Choose another task from column #1 [tasks] ,  move it to column #2 [WIP].

The main idea is to keep the column #2 [“work in progress”/WIP] always full.

You are constantly keeping tracks of what you do with Kanban.

Everyone, including you, then knows what is going on.

   

Tasks

 Work in progress (max:3)

 Tasks done

improve user interface

learn facebook API

study network theory

play arma2

chapter 8 of my NLP book

one hour of sport

Voila!

You know how to Kanban !

This sounds pretty basic does it not ?

Well Kanban is dumb and basic, but nonetheless it is incredibly powerful.

You can add more columns.

For example, you can add a column ‘Task of the week’, and move the tasks from column #1 [tasks] then to column #2 [tasks of the week] for the tasks you need to do this week.

The new column [tasks of the week] add a layer of prioritization.

Like this you can “Pre select” what you will do soon.

The basic idea is to move one task at a time, and to ALWAYS keep the number of tasks in the [“ Work in progress”/WIP] column constant.

Do not overload the WIP column like a crazy. The other columns are there for it!

Personally, I add an extra bit of personalization in the way of ordering the tasks.

As an example my tasks in my WIP column are ordered with the high priority tasks on top, and the low priority tasks  at the bottom. e.g.:

work in progress:
task urgent
low task

I really love kanban. First, because Kanban is easy, you keep control of your work flow.

There is no release date , nor any kind of big event of some kind. Kanban is like a waterfall, always flowing!

People can collaborate with you on your white board too. Just add the name of the guy who take ownership of the task. All the tasks are shared between members.

work in progress:

testing web site (bob)

contact affiliate (Alice)

meet client (Alice)

Here the WIP column is used by the whole company, so as an example Bob can see how Alice is doing.

Make Kanban fit your needs.

There is no limit to what you can do.

Just keep the basic rule of a restricted number of tasks as work in progress, and keep that number finite.

For me Kanban is a formidable way, to organize myself.

Being able to know exactly, what I’m working on, and the incredible flexibility to work on an urgent task whilst keeping a steady progression is invaluable.

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Comments

  1. Alex Rodrigues says: March 4, 2013

    Thank you. Yours was the first link I read on Kanban and you truly made it sound easy

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