Why using Kanbanery to focus and visualize your work, while limiting WIP might make you truly limitless
In the movie “Limitless”, actor Bradley Cooper plays a hard luck writer who stumbles upon a pill that supposedly lets you access the dormant 80% of your brain. Needless to say, after he begins to use this pill he starts to get things done… a lot of things done.
My life on Kanbanery
While Kanbanery isn’t a miracle pill, it has had a huge impact on how I work and get things done. When I began working for Kanbanery, the biggest challenge was getting rid of the inefficient and downright ridiculous way that I conceptualized “work”. Everyone wants to be seen as super productive multi tasker who can take on anything and everything, but this is just not practical.
Turning stress into focus
I had this idea that I had to be an endless reservoir, always ready to jump on the next task - and I didn’t always know what was coming next. This lead to one thing - stress. It also sabotaged my focus and productivity. Or as Kanbanery CEO Paul Klipp puts it: “From David Allen’s Getting Things Done I learned that my brain is for processing, not storage. Most of the stress in my life, perhaps all of it, used to come from the nagging fear that there was something more important that I ought to be doing.”
Unleash your productive powers with Kanbanery - Image courtesy of Generation Film!
When I began using Kanbanery to organize my tasks, I found that this stress and fear was being replaced with more of a confident focus as I could visualize everything I had to do on one Kanban board which was right in front of me. What’s more is I began to notice more of a feeling of being very content with everything I was accomplishing, maybe because I could really see it.
Happiness is… Getting it done
Like in the movie “Limitless”, when Cooper starts tapping into his newfound abilities and productivity, he begins to really enjoy life. A recent post of ours highlights the psychological benefits of Kanbanery, for example, the shot of dopamine you get when moving a tedious task from “doing” to “done”.
The magic productivity pill? - Photo courtesy of The Buzz Media
Marijuana or dopamine
Both make you happy, but only one is going to have a positive effect on your productivity. A recent British study showed that “Workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana.” You can also read how we feel about email in our “Email Sucks” post. Spoiler alert: We prefer using Kanbanery instead of an inbox to coordinate projects.
Crack the WIP and smash the tomato
To beat distractions, nothing works better than limiting your WIP to focus on one thing at a time. Additionally, a widely used tool at Kanbanery’s parent company Lunar Logic is the “Pomodoro Technique”. This technique harnesses the value uninterrupted focus for 25 minutes, with 5 minute breaks. As Paul notes: “From Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique, I learned to break myself of multi-tasking and the power of focus.”
Paul weeds through the useless “Productivity Porn” to bring you the best personal productivity gems in this post on his blog here. Watch out for a “Pomodoro” counter to be available with Kanbanery in the very near future.
So to put it all together, why Kanbanery? Because it’s a crisp, simple tool that lets the most disorganized person (or teams) tap into their focus and really get things done. Test it out and get on Kanbanery. No prescription required, but side effects may include total organization, razor-sharp focus and possibly limitless productivity. What have you got to lose?
How construction teams are using Kanban methods
Ever pass through a newly developed area and wonder “How’d they do that so quickly?” That developer might be using Kanban. Yes, Kanban has made its way into the construction field. And for good reason, too. If large construction firms are using Kanban tools and principles to coordinate their projects, what can Kanban do for you and your team?
From under construction to on top of construction
To coordinate the intricate symphony of inputs, artisans and key project managers, construction experts are utilizing Kanban principles of visualization and limiting WIP to complete huge building projects quicker, with less waste.
Image courtesy of fragboss.com
Lean construction to Kanban construction
Lean construction as defined by the “Lean Construction Institute (LCI), is a production management-based project delivery system emphasizing the reliable and speedy delivery of value. The goal is to build the project while maximizing value, minimizing waste and pursuing perfection—for the benefit of all project stakeholders.”
To achieve this, many project managers are turning to Kanban tools like Kanbanery which can guide the seemingly endless processes of a major construction project.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Agile expert Dr Adrian Smith has applied has adopted a Kanban-style approach to construction projects. He states that: “Just as the principles and practices of Lean Manufacturing have been adapted to construction, Kanban can be adapted to support the management of (construction) work packages.” Construction work packages are different aspects of a project that are divided up into manageable pieces. “The adaption is based on treating work packages as products within a manufacturing system. This provides a lens through which the management of work packages can be viewed and thereby enables many of the Kanban principles to be applied.”
If you can dream it, you can build it
Transforming a vacant lot into a stadium is no easy task. Even more difficult is getting everyone involved to visualize the project in its early stages and as it constantly changes throughout the course of the project. “The key requirement—making the process state transparent to all participants—is more difficult to achieve in construction than in manufacturing, because work crews move continuously within a physical environment that is itself changing.”
This is where an electronic tool with offline capabilities like Kanbanery comes in. On one large construction project, project foremen are using iPads in the field and synchronizing them whenever they have wireless data access. Kanbanery is currently the only Kanban tool which supports offline use and iPad or iPhone and server synchronization, making it ideal for use on construction sites.
Visualization for everyone - Physical tools no good in construction?
Dr Smith later notes that: “Physical cards are not practical in a construction environment, however an electronic representation can be readily used for coordinating work on a daily basis.” A virtual Kanban tool (like Kanbanery) can be used to “communicate priority (critical path), identify blocked work packages and ensure that field crews are fully utilised.”
Like always, limit WIP
How is limiting WIP done in construction? It’s obtained “by not releasing work packages until existing work packages are properly completed. This ensures construction priorities are executed and critical path activities are properly managed. An electronic display can be used to provide a virtual Kanban board that represents the status of work packages.”
So there you have it… Kanban is slowly “flowing” into every industry. By breaking work into manageable pieces, visualizing workflow and limiting wip, many prominent construction firms are more productive than ever before. Whether you’re in the construction industry or not, what will you and your team build?
Weighing the benefits of Kanban in case work
Kanban began on the production lines of Toyota, with visible, physical products being assembled. It has proved to be just as effective in organizing teams producing intangible products. For example, it revolutionized the process of software development. Currently, Kanban is permeating countless other specializations. It is proving to be especially useful for knowledge workers like lawyers. In this article, I’ll show you why and how you can apply Kanban to your own processes.
Image courtesy of: SF Appeal
“Time is money” - More time and money with Kanban
I can think of no other industry where the old adage “time is money” can better be applied. Selling “billable hours”, lawyers are highly paid professionals for whom every minute is money. A lean organizational tool like Kanbanery will ensure they get every minute of value out of each billable hour by making their work clear so that no time is lost in figuring out what the next priority is.
A partner in a typical law firm needs tools to organize the flow of work across many different lawyers working on many different cases. This doesn’t necessarily mean cumbersome and expensive CRM or organizational management systems. Like a car manufacturer or software development team, a law firm can greatly benefit from a lean and easily implementable tool like Kanbanery to manage and constantly improve its processes. Here’s why…
Getting ahold of the intangible
When no tangible products are produced, it’s even more important to “see” your work or make your workflow visible throughout the entire team. Lawyers are knowledge workers do not manufacture physical products. This makes it a lot more challenging to track and visualize the work being completed from the bottom up. Knowledge workers typically store their work backlogs in their heads or jotted down in notebooks. When every lawyer tracks their work on a Kanban board, all is visible through task cues and transparency is obtained.
Legal and lean expert D. Mark Jackson in his “Lean Law” blog concludes: “The point here is to use real cues instead of the artificial and misleading physical cues that emerge in an office environment. The height of paper stacked on your credenza doesn’t (or shouldn’t) tell you what to do and when to do it.” Agile expert Jim Benson advocates beginning Kanban with an actual physical board. Stephen Reed gives an example of a physical Kanban bin in a law firm below:
Physical Kanban bin in a law firm - Image courtesy of Stephen Reed
Stephen is eager to bring lean principles to the legal sector. He comments: “How many law firms can you say have displayed lean or agile principles? What would you say if you saw Lean principles and Agile values being displayed at your lawyers office - with stickies on the wall and teams of lawyers, legal secretaries, and senior partners all around a whiteboard “storming” on a case to help them win?”
A Kanbanery board - accessible by all, anytime (including offline capabilities)
This is excellent in the beginning but if you want a tool that is easily accessible by everyone it is necessary to go digital. According to Datacraft Solutions’ CEO Stephen Parker, “Digital Kanban solutions within the demand-driven supply chain impact profit margins in several ways: by decreasing expense side tangible cost associated with legacy forecast management solutions, increase profit margins through efficiency gains. Increased customer satisfaction may result in additional sales to new as well as existing customers.”
Attorney-Client privilege: What about Customer Kanban?
A digital Kanban solution in a law firm is necessary for coordinating the activities of employees, but what about the other side of the coin? Legal clients often want a detailed response on the status of their case yesterday. You can give them this with a mere glance at your Kanban board. When aiding a law firm on implementation of a Kanban system, Dan Markovitz, founder and owner of TimeBack Management commented:
“Tracking work that others are doing is a common problem, particularly in a high-priced law firm, where the clients want answers to their questions at the most inopportune times — like the middle of dinner, or just after you’ve settled into watching Toy Story 1 & 2 with your kids. To be fair, if you’re charging them $800 per hour, you should be ready to answer those questions. However, hounding your team to get you that information — especially when they’re watching Toy Story with their kids — is a sure way to get your firm delisted from the “100 Best Places To Work.”
It is essential that every team, legal and otherwise, be aware of what a Kanban system can do not only for their processes but also the effect it can have on their relationships with clients. In my opinion, Kanban is the perfect resource for effectively managing work, employees and most importantly, customers.
However, the legal profession seems to be well on its way as Stephen Reed notes: “Terms like collaborative, cross functional, transparency, maximizing flow are not terms you generally hear in a law firm, but that is all changing with law firms also needing to become more innovative and leading edge when it comes to reducing clients costs, delivering what the client wants, and understanding their clients needs clearly and effectively.”
Do you agree? Would this set a productive precedent? Should Kanban be the law among lawyers? We haven’t had any objections yet!