I’m getting increasingly keen on the use of Kanban for looking at flows of work. Kanban is part of the Lean manufacturing family, driven out of the japanese automotive industry in the past thirty years – the basic premise is to visualise the value chain of a system, then limit the work in progress (WIP) that the system can accomodate. New items are then pulled through the value chain (as opposed to being pushed through) when you have the capacity to take on new work.
Sounds like common sense, right? Don’t take on more work than you are capable of delivering. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I wonder if there’s any more basic proverbs that can be extended to a business metaphor…
There are more niceties to Kanban though, that I won’t go into detail on here. If you want to learn more, then you can check out Wikipedia or this excellent site on Lean and Kanban. You might also want to take a look at some fo the work done at the BBC using Kanban – they suffered from Kanban flu recently – the original implementation of a Kanban system was so successfull, they started using it for everything and anything. Proves it must have good uses!
I also like the Personal Kanban initiative – using kanban principles to sort your own life out. It’s a bit of a self-help type endeavour, and there’s a myriad of books and speakers on these subjects (personaly favourties would be Covey‘s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Jim Collin‘s Good to Great, and I have some time for John Gray‘s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and used that metaphor for some management consulting back in the 1990’s). So Personal Kanban advises you to not bite off more than you can chew, and to view your life as a flow of work from a backlog of stuff you’ve not done yet, the stuff you’re busy doing, and – importantly – to keep a note of what you’ve done.
All good common sense if you ask me – I’ll keep an eye on that movement though and see if there are some other interesting applications of the theory.