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My question is kind of a follow-up on this one. I've started using the Personal Kanban method at work:

  • I'm using Trello, with 2 boards (Options and Tasks).
  • I chose to keep the Options (Backlog) board separate since I have a lot going on and it would be overwhelming to have everything in one place, especially since Trello doesn't allow users to collapse boards.
  • The "Tasks" board has the following columns: Short term, Priorities (limit of 5), WIP (limit of 3), Pen (Blocked), and Done.
  • I'm using color-less labels for projects, and colour labels for types of work (admin, urgent, unplanned, quick), etc.

At the moment I am using this system for myself only, but people are starting to notice what I'm doing, and some of them are interested in trying it out.

I work in public engagement and communication consulting, and we typically work in small project-based teams that can stay active for a few weeks or a few months, depending on the project. Most of us work on several projects at a time - for instance, I'm working on 10 active projects right now, each with different teams.

My understanding is that ideally, anything anyone from our 12-people team is working on should be on the same board since otherwise it would make it hard to limit WIP, and in order for it to not become overwhelming, the task size should be kept at high level and we should use subtasks to account for individual work. My concern with this is that it would make it hard to track WIP at the individual level. Would you recommend using a personal kanban board (separate from the team board) to track individual work? If so, how do you make sure people keep updating both (personal and team) boards as they go along? And what do you do with small tasks that don't fit under a higher-level task?

Thanks in advance!

  • What decisions will your team make based on the board? – Michael Hogan Sep 29 '16 at 3:14
  • Hi @MichaelHogan, the board would just be a way to visualize upcoming, ongoing and completed work in order to have a better idea of what's going on and where help is needed. We could use it in our team meetings for that purpose, and see where bottlenecks are, how much of our work is unplanned/urgent, etc.. I'd like to use it to avoid dedicating so much time putting off fires, but I don't know how yet. – Balala Sep 30 '16 at 13:07
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From past experience it is very difficult to get someone to update one piece of work in two different places, so I would recommend having a single team board where all items are visible, but you can filter down based off of the current need. It also fits two of the main purposes of kanban as well, which are:

The kanban methodology relies upon full transparency of work and real-time communication of capacity, therefore the kanban board should be seen as the single source of truth for the team's work. https://www.atlassian.com/agile/kanban

The first option is to use filters on the board based off of who owns the task, and labels. For this to work you will need to create multiple boards, either team-based or project-based depending on what makes more sense for your group.

In a project based board for example, you would add all the tasks required for the team members on that project to complete it. You can then view the entire scope of work needed, and when monitoring your own work just open the filters and select your name, and it will only show you the work assigned to you.

Alternatively, if there are more common ways of filtering down just assign a label, and then filter by the label. This then allows you or any member of that project to view at a glance any aspect of the project they desire.

The second way to do this would be to go ahead and do one giant board for the entire team, and use labels for each project. You can then view any project using the filter, or by combining multiple labels together, including labels plus assigned users. All the concepts of the first option are the same, just on a broader scale.

A third option would be to use a Jira board instead of a trello board. The main reason this could be useful is in Jira you can create as many boards as you want based off of the same tasks in one or more projects This is the only reason I bring it up. You could create a project to hold all your tasks, assign them out, and then create a team kanban board, and then let each team member create their own personal board based off of the same tasks. Update the task in either place and it will be reflected in any board it's on. There are also more options at the task level, such as linking tasks together to show dependancies or blockers, and the filter to view issues assigned to you for the main board is built in.

However; there are several cons to this approach.

  1. Jira is cheap, but not free. It costs $10 a month for up to 10 users, $75 for up to 15 https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/pricing?tab=host-in-the-cloud
  2. Jira is harder to use than Trello. One of the main benefits to trello is how easy the interface is. Especially given some of the options I mentioned, which are harder. For this reason alone Trello is probably better for you, but I still wanted to share how this works.
  3. You will need to make sure that your boards have the same workflows (based off of task steps), so that also is more overhead and maintenance of the board itself.

If your projects are fairly separate you might want to use something like the first option, to make it easier to switch between projects. If they are not, then the second option is probably best. Full disclosure, my workflow is in software development in a complicated setting so I use Jira in my day-to-day work and am more familiar with it than Trello.

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You could use a tool like SwiftKanban that provides the capability to track person-wise WIP and have people working on multiple boards (multiple projects) at a time. You can define board level WIP limits for each column (process stage) that regulates flow on that board. You can also define individual-level WIP limits - and it gives you a 'personal-kanban' style view that show who is loaded how much in which project.

Having too many individual level Kanban boards may get tricky and difficult to manage by the individuals as well as the various teams.

Another thing this tool allows you to do is define multiple swim lanes on the same board, and have separate workflows for each. You could have the swim lane dedicated to an individual or a team, by work-type, by a product/ project or a class of service. It gives you several options to organize your board and your work.

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