I finished the Everett group Kanban board today and would like to share it with you. A Kanban (看板) (literally signboard or billboard in Japanese) is a scheduling system that we use extensively within Agile Learning Centers. I have a personal Kanban tucked away in my sketch book. One also might make a Kanban for a specific project.
Kanban’s help us visualize our work and keep our work in progress to a manageable level.
I have implemented a group Kanban in the Everett school because we are currently small enough to share a single board. It helps us outline our day and reflect on what we’ve done throughout the week. Below I will outline in detail how this board works.
This section is where all things begin. Students, parents, coaches, and community members are encouraged to place offerings up here. It can be a class or a project, anything really, that someone can give to the group. For instance a friend Sweetwater shared stories from her tribe with the group while I have offered to teach 1 and 2 point perspective drawing.
The largest column holds all the possible tasks. Each sticky note describes a discrete activity or task which we have though of and are willing to do. These tasks live in the possible column until we feel that we are ready to do them in the next day or two.
Anatomy of a Sticky
The Sticky moves across the Kanban to it’s desired destination in the done column. Sometimes a sticky will be too broad, it will contain multiple tasks within it, that kind of sticky will need to be dissolved into further sticky notes describing further atomized tasks or activities.
I have been using the X__________ on stickys to indicate that someone needs to hold coherence for a task. This is a fancy way of saying that someone needs to take responsibility for a sticky note’s journey across the Kanban.
When a task is both materially ready and we are mentally ready for it we move it to the ready column. These are the tasks on deck for the next few days. If we can’t get to a task in doing it will often fall back into ready. In our morning intention setting meeting we tend to pull from the ready column when setting the day up.
This is where the rubber meets the road, where the bread get’s buttered. This column is broken into 7 blocks representing hours of the day (we start at 10pm and end at 5pm). This helps us place stickies along a time line of the day and helps us visualize what we will be doing throughout the day.
This is the final resting place of our brave stickies. The column is broken into four sections representing the four days of the week that we meet. At the end of each day we move completed tasks into the proper day. At the end of the week we can visualize what we did that week.
The picture doesn’t make it very clear but we are using tracks, or horizontal rows, that span offers to ready. These tracks are for all tasks focused in a specific area. For instance we have a track for all tasks related to our maker space and a track for “deep future” things that we want to do but know will take some time to get around to.
Tracks help us organize and focus our intentions. Perhaps we want to spend a whole day on the maker space, well in that case we would know just where to look for all the tasks related to that.
The far right of the Kanban has another Agile Learning “Leaf” (e.g. tool) attached to it called the Community Mastery Board. Typically this is arranged like a Kanban with four columns, we’ve arranged ours vertically (and cut one section), but the function is generally the same. The aim of this leaf is to build community by making the typically implicit community norms explicit without having to codify a bunch of rules.
For instance, in our current space everyone is expected to clean up any dishes they use. We didn’t come to this decision by having a meeting and coming up with rules, rather by way of becoming aware of a problem and trying out a number of solutions and sticking with the one that stuck. It all starts with awareness…
This row is where we put sticky notes with issues or opportunities that anyone in the community has become aware of. It’s important to note that things that go up here don’t have to be negative issues, they can be things like “Martha wants to drive us to park twice a month”. Anything that requires community attention to resolve.
To continue with the dishes example, it started up here in awareness. Someone noticed that dishes were getting left around the school and wrote this note. That Friday at our closing meeting we reviewed the awareness board and got to hear about this problem and brain storm solutions we might implement.
Once a issue/opportunity has been identified we then seek a solution. In many democratic bodies this phase would take a long time. People might argue different ideas for solutions then seek to build consensus around codifying one of these solutions, a process that takes a considerable amount of time. We like to stay agile, so rather than trying to find the best solution and set it in stone we seek solutions we can implement for a week, just to test it out.
If an awareness item has a solution implemented we will try that solution on for a week. At the next awareness meeting we review the issues in the implementation box and see how we feel about that solution. If it isn’t working we might come up with another test solution or drop the issue back to awareness for consideration at a later date.
Once a solution is implemented for a few weeks and (more importantly) it is being actively used by the community we will move the issue (and it’s solution) to practicing.
Like the name suggests this box is for solutions that are being practiced by the community. We are using both definitions of the word; repeating it to practice doing it, and doing it as a practice.
The solution will live here for quite a while. Like anything you have to practice it to get good at it. Eventually it will come as second nature. Going back to our example this would be that everyone is taking their dish away without anyone nagging or asking or reminding that it’s something we are practicing. At this point we will review the practice at our awareness meeting and agree that we have mastered this task.
This is where and issue or opportunity ends it’s journey. Once we are, as a community, confident in our ability to perform a task we put it in mastery. As community practices fill our mastery board it creates what one might consider a rule book. Anyone who enters into the community can then see that here at ALC Everett everyone takes care of their own dish.
We can now point to it as something we do, not because we know it implicitly but because we can show it explicitly!
Deltas (Things that could work better)
This current Kanban isn’t without it’s pit falls. We’ve only been using it for a few weeks so I’ll save all the issues I see it with right now and share just the one. I feel that we are using at the expense of our personal Kanban. I’ve noticed that I’m not getting done what I set out to do personally and see the students using their Kanbans less if at all. It seems to off load some of the responsibility to be self directed onto the group.
I might try and have a day where we don’t move tasks across the group kanban and instead focus on our own work for a day a week.
Apart from that it’s been a blast using and I hope you find some inspiration within it.
Got any ideas or questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below!