As a member of a small team of creative knowledge workers I am faced with a well-known challenge. On the one hand most of our projects involve a scope of work and estimated time to complete that we determine beforehand with our clients. But on the other hand, because of the iterative nature of our projects, scopes always change. We need a process and tools to helps us manage and deliver these types of projects, successfully.
To help with this challenge I find visual tools, particularly appealing, like Sam’s multi-level Kanban view. Thanks to it, we can easily navigate our often-complex lists of projects with all the tasks and piece of information’s attached to them. I also like how flexible and intuitive to use it is. Depending on the type of projects, we work independently or collaborate on them, and the flexibility of this system allows us to do that too. We can manage our own time and personalize the workflow depending on our expertise. Having this visibility and flexibility also helps deal with our ever-changing projects.
Kanban is great but...
The way the system deals with the complexity is done through three Kanban levels, an interesting twist over regular Kanban. Indeed, typical Kanban systems process are designed to work on one project or group of tasks at the time. That makes them very efficient at helping teams stay focused on a WIP, Work in Progress group of tasks. This is done through a set of basic principles easy to learn and use:
How can we keep the advantages and simplicity of use of Kanban while being able to work on multiple projects simultaneously?
Sam9000 Multi Level Kanban can help:
Big Picture: All projects Kanban
This is where Sam’s interconnected three levels Kanban comes in. Each level is connected to the others but as a user I only want to deal with each of them separately. Sam’s AI is doing the complicated work of managing the interactions and generating a daily schedule: the Dash “My Kanban today” for each team member. Sam is really a virtual assistant for everyone in our team.
The addition of a big picture “all projects” Kanban that uses the same set of principles provides the missing overview and link we needed between projects.
At the Kanban of All Projects level, the principles are the same. That makes them easy to use and understand:
• Visualize the whole situation.
• Limit the work in progress. At this level this corresponds to priorities and can be monitored at this level.
Please note: the priorities are set with the Priorities Tool.
• Enhance and manage the flow of all projects. Once the situation is assessed, we can move the projects along, update their status, add new ones.
By clicking on Edit, other information about Projects can be accessed and edited on the spot.
In the picture below I clicked on Daily Inc – Block #2003
For a quick access to all tasks in a selected project, we can click on the Open button. Simply click on All projects button to go back.
This is how we can deal with multiple projects, each with their tasks very easily and intuitively. At any time during the day, myself or one of my coworkers can quickly assess and readjust the status and progress on all our ongoing projects.
Indeed, the All Projects helps us visualize the whole situation across all projects to help us with doing this.
Most of time, but this can vary depending on the projects, we do this individually. We regularly review the projects we oversee and adjust their status. We usually do this when one of the following situations happens:
• We add a new project. This can be done directly there with the + Project button. The new project is added to the preliminary column.
• Edit the progress percentage or other project information.
• Indicate if a project is stalled. This is usually an opportunity to move another project ahead and increase its priority level.
• Accept/Start a project.
• Indicate a project is ready to be tested.
• A project is delivered.
• A project is Invoiced/Done and in warranty mode
• The warranty period is finished. The project status is changed to Archives which removes it from the All Projects Kanban.
Project Kanban: Focus on a single project
Based on what projects we decide to focus on, we can then zoom in into each of those specific projects. The process at this level is very similar to the All Projects Kanban. The difference is, this is where we can review the details on the project’s current tasks and other information attached to them.
And from this level it is easy to go back up to the top level, just click the All Projects button. You can select another project and do the same thing. Having this ability to easily go between these different levels is very useful to quickly go through all the tasks that needs our current attention.
At this level we can:
• Visualize all tasks in a project.
• Limit the work in progress. This is done in part by us and in part by Sam’s AI system. We only need to make sure we activate or move from backlog to Soon/now, the tasks we want to focus on for the coming days. Sam’s AI will limit the number that will appear in each team member’s dashboard.
• Enhance and manage the flow of all task. This is done during the day as the work on the different tasks progresses.
As for projects, by clicking on Edit, all information about each task can be accessed and edited on the spot.
Task description, long description, When indicator, priority.
From there we can assign a task to a coworker. We can jump to Emails attached, see when files are attached, review the timesheet and add new tasks.
Having access to everything related to the tasks in one place makes our work extremely efficient. No need to chase for information everywhere.
My Kanban Today: Sam schedules what we should focus on now
The last Kanban is where the magic happens and where I personally spend most of my time. I really enjoy coming to work in the morning knowing exactly where to begin or where I was, to continue. Without it, I often used to waste time trying to get the momentum back from where I left the previous day. Or, I was getting sidetracked by emails or other sources of distraction.
Indeed, My Kanban Today is what Sam schedules for each team member. It gives each of us a very clear focused list of what to work on. This eliminates confusion on what to do next and helps steer clear of distractions.
For the scheduling process, the system uses a combination of input we enter at the two other levels, Kanban of All Projects and for each project Kanban:
• The project’s priorities.
• The task’s When indicator. Tasks need to be set to Soon, to be scheduled. (Rush overwrites this and schedule this task before the others.)
• The tasks priorities within each project.
More advanced indications can be set for a more precise scheduling:
• W.S Wish Start date
• W.E Wish End date
• Time box hours per tasks
In this personal Kanban each of us can:
• Visualize all tasks Sam has scheduled.
• Limit the work in progress. In this case this is managed by Sam’s AI which ensures to limit to the maximum H/Day set for the team member.
• Enhance and manage the flow of all task. This is done during the day as the work on the different tasks progresses and move from Scheduled by Sam to Started, Delivered or Done
As for the task’s Kanban, by clicking on Edit, all information about each task can be accessed and edited directly in the dashboard.
• Task description
• Long description: this is the one I use the most. Especially when assigning a task back and forth with a coworker, we basically use it to add extra information on what we did for the task.
• When indicator
From there we can also:
• Assign a task to a coworker.
• Jump to Emails attached, this function is particularly efficient. In my line of work, I constantly get last minutes requests from my clients. Having access to the email request directly in my dashboard streamlines the process significantly.
• See when files are attached and download them
• Start the timer on a task. This is very convenient and ideally located in the workflow when you need to keep track of how long you spend on each task.
For extra convenience we can also add new tasks or notes directly from the My Kanban today.
The new task will not automatically appear in the dashboard, it will first need to be scheduled. But it will be added to the backlog.
Sam9000 multi-level 3D Kanban combines the advantages of Kanban with the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously. That makes it a powerful ally in helping our team deliver projects faster, with a minimum of friction.
One of the advantage I appreciate the most about Kanban process is its basic principles.
• Visualizing what you do, your workflow. Having an overview of all tasks and how they relate to each other. This can be very useful to help balance your work.
• Limit the amount of work in progress (WIP). This is a good way to help focus on one thing at the time.
• Enhance and manage the flow: decide on the next task you will focus on, have all your tools and material within easy reach.
What makes this system unique is having these principles applied to all three Kanban levels:
• Kanban of all Projects
• Project Kanban
• My Kanban Today.
This consistency across all levels is what makes this system easy to learn and efficient to use. I also find it easy to navigate. Indeed, moving between levels is simple and intuitive. This helps us considerably with our often-complex lists of projects with all the tasks and piece of information’s attached to them.
But what, I think, really sets it apart is the My Kanban Today scheduled for each team member by Sam’s AI.
Even though each Kanban level is intuitive and efficient to use, if we had to schedule tasks for each member across all projects, it would take time to do it well. And with projects constantly changing, sometimes several times in a day, this simply would not be possible. The automatic schedule is truly a great advantage to our small team of creative knowledge workers and our ever-changing projects.