Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kidz Kanban

I have a 6 year old daughter, who has been helping with household chores for quite some time. But recently we decided to visualize our Saturday morning chore work. So I ordered a decent quality whiteboard and mounted it to a kitchen closet door—in plain view of anyone using our kitchen and laundry room areas.

We started by creating 3 columns:

Todo –> Doing –> Done

This seemed to work ok. My daughter is bright, and a good reader for her age.  She understood the workflow states, so we worked our Todo list the first Saturday.

Afterward, I asked her how she thought it went. She thought it was alright, except she didn’t know what a “Todo” list meant.  She understood the purpose of the prioritized work items. But she didn’t understand the language “Todo”. So I asked her what she thought the column title should be. 
“Well this is the stuff that Daddy says I need to do.”
So we changed the column heading to reflect that suggestion. I asked her about the “Doing” state, and she offered:
“That’s what I’m doing.”
I updated the board again to the new language. And immediately asked about the “Done” column.
“That’s when we do a high five!”
Our new column headers (red arrow) now read:

Daddy Says –> I’m Doing –> High Five

Readers who are software professionals may be wondering what a children’s personal Kanban board has to do with software development. I think there is a lesson here that I’ve learned long before establishing a board for my daughter.  When modeling any process, use the language of your stakeholders. It’s likely to establish a better shared understanding, and people will naturally be more engaged.  I’ve made the mistake in the past of using contrived Kanban board column names on a software project.  It’s something I now watch for when setting up any kind of Kanban board.

If you are wondering about the smiley faces on the top bar (yellow arrow), that represents our Visual Management tool for both our girls' behavior. Smiley faces on Monday – Friday earn a trip for breakfast out on the weekend. Visualizing the “score” reduces confusion and arguments around the current state of the household behavior. Have you ever argued about the state of some chunk of software at your work place? Visualize it!

See part two of this series: Kidz Kanban: Classeses of Service.

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