Kanban – an amazing technique to get a grip on your work

April 26, 2016 | Leonie Pock | Methods & Tools |


Rating: 4.8 out of 5

nadjaschnetzler_1321302641_63Kanban is a Japanese word which signifies «visual signal». In the industry, for instance in car production kanbans are used to singnalize important information in the workflow: When do I need to reorder materials, for instance. The idea of kanban has spread to other industries in the last 15 years. Two pioneers of kanban in knowledge work are David Anderson and Jim Benson. They started using kanban to optimize the flow of work for individuals, teams or whole organisations. If you are interested in their work, you can read «Personal Kanban» by Jim Benson and Tonianne de Maria Barry or «Kanban – successful evolutionary change for your organisaton» by David Anderson. Using kanban for your own individual work is fairly straightforward and easy. What is demanding is to keep using it and evolving with it. 

By Nadja Schnetzler


There are a a few principles to a personal kanban:

Principle 1: Visualize your work

Make your work

  •  A kanban board for personal kanban purposes konsists of a board with columns.
  • This is your visual workflow system.
  • In that system, your tasks will run from left to right on postit notes. It is a pull system, which means that you pull tasks from one column to the next until they are in „done“.


Principle 2: Start where you are now

start where

  • Don’t make a complicated board. Start simple, and then committ to evoultionary change while you learn what your system is telling you (yes, it will help you have a better dialogue about your work with yourself and others).


Principle 3: Limit your work in progress

stop starting

  • Work flows better when we take better decisions. Limiting your kanban system means that you only let a certain amount into your system at any given moment. This will increase your flow of work and you will get more done while feeling less stressed.


Principle 4: To eat an Elephant, you have to cut it into small pieces

to eat an elephant

  • Be aware of how you formulate your tasks on post-its and how big you make them. Smaller and more clearly formulated tasks will run through the system more smoothly than very large and badly written chunks of work.




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