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Fixed Date Tasks on Personal Kanban

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Fixed Date Tasks on Personal Kanban

In this article, a Kanban practitioner demonstrates how he uses Kanban in his personal life as a way of explaining one of Kanban's concepts.

· Agile Zone ·
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First of all, I'm biased: I'm a fan of Personal Kanban and I'm even a KMP. But I won't describe either Personal Kanban or the Kanban method; there are a lot of good books and articles out there on those topics.

Here I want to write about my personal experience in applying metrics to my Personal Kanban I keep at home, showing how, I think, there are some things possibly not worth measuring.

Let's start! Some premises are needed. My Personal Kanban has the following (classic) flow: Backlog -| Ready (6) -> In Progress (8) -| Done, the commit points being the step between Backlog and Ready (limited to six tasks) and the step between In Progress (limited to eight tasks) and Done. Between those two points, the Lead Time is computed following the guidelines presented in "Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability" by Dan S. Vacanti. Things in In Progress might be blocked due to external factors: I've not added a specific (WIP-limited) park area but I just rotate the stickies 45 degrees and keep them in the In Progress column.

I've also decided to give them a try, and use default Classes of Services as described in "Kanban, Successful evolutionary change for your technology business" by David J. Anderson:

  • Expedite (cyan sticky note, didn't find white ones).

  • Fixed Date (red sticky note).

  • Standard (yellow sticky note).

  • Intangible (green sticky note).

In this article, I want to write about my experience with Fixed Date tasks.

Speaking about home, the fixed date tasks that we all have might be different. Things to pay: mortgage payments, utilities, taxes, ... Things to do: doctor, school events, children/partner events, travels, ...

Following Kanban guidelines, all those tasks will be added to the backlog when they appear. Then, we'll analyze some of them, to see when they'll be moved into the To Do column, that is, when they're committed (and so the Lead Time count starts):

  • Suppose you have a 10-year mortgage. You already know that every month, from today to ten years in the future, you need to pay those interests and payments. Do you have 120 fixed date activities committed all of a sudden? Well, you know you have them (and you can even possibly add them to your backlog) but they'll be committed the day of payment, usually the last day of the month. So their Lead Time is always 1 day: the payment for December 31st will be committed on December 31st, etc. They are not committed because you may win the lotto, sell the house, go bankrupt, ... so you won't "need" to pay them, you're not committed to pay them unless you pay them. So, their Lead Time is always 1 day.

  • Let's talk about travels. My example: On December 30th, I booked a flight for the first week of August! A bunch of activities appeared in the backlog: check-in, baggage, documents, travel insurance, cash withdrawal, etc. Are those all committed? Well, let's think about the flight: it's not committed at all! Yes, you may lose money, but until you check-in, nothing is committed at all. Actually, even the check-in does not commit your flight activity since, for any reason, you may not be able to board the flight. I'd say, again, that Lead Time is 1 day since you commit to board the flight on the same day of the flight (or when you pass security checks since you can't go back). Have other related/dependent activities more lengthy Lead Times? After all, you might have to withdraw cash a few days before departure. Indeed, but again, the activity itself is committed when you get out to go to the bank, not before, so, again, I would give 1 day of Lead Time.

  • Utilities have the same approach: you usually receive the payment invoice some days in advance (something like a month or so, here in Italy) but if you have the direct debit feature, the payment is committed for exactly the due date, so again you have a Lead Time of 1 day.

  • It's the same concept for medical appointments or job interviews: they'll be committed the same day. So, again, their Lead Time is 1 day.

  • Again, the same results appear for school/children events that are (hopefully) usually known some time in advance (put them in Backlog!) but committed on the very same day (put them in Ready!) so that their Lead Time is 1 day.

These are the main Fixed Date activities I've found that generally have 1 day Lead Time, due to the late commitment concept found in the Kanban method. For this reason, I've stopped measuring Fixed Date activities, even though I continue to track them on the board in order to: avoid losing them; to properly limit WIP; and to also have a complete overview of my activities (even those payments with direct debt!); and have the basis for my personal kaizen.

What do you think? Do you agree with this view of Fixed Date tasks as applied to Personal Kanban? I'd love to read some interesting comments and other experiences on this.

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kanban ,metrics ,agile

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