The Bull’s-Eye Kanban Experiment

A couple of months ago I decided that it was time to try something different and erased my Personal Kanban board where all lines crossed each other at 90-degree angles. I thought it was time to experiment with a radically different board structure.

This is what I drew instead. (Sorry, I had to hide what was written on these stickies for confidentiality reasons, but what was written on them is beside the point.)

The sectors and sticky colours represent different types of work: administrative, coaching, maintenance and new features for a couple of products I contribute to. The centre oval is equivalent of the “Doing” column. Its size effectively sets the WIP limit, which is somewhat flexible. I usually had two or three items there, rarely one or four. The distance from the centre represents the strength of my mental attachment to a work item. Some items are outside the WIP oval, but not too far. They represent work that is coming up, that has been prioritized, that I’ve already had conversations about. This work is also limited because there is limited space between the concentric ovals. The connection weakens as we move outside the red oval. The fringes of the board (except the far right-hand side) are the backlog. These things are safely out of my mind at the moment, although they all visualize options that I can work on in the future. The stickies on the right-hand side of the board are “done.”

What Can I See On This Board?

I’m working (and keeping in mind) two main themes (blue and orange stickies). I’m actively working on two items (one of each type) and have prioritized four more (two of each kind). Additionally, a recurring task (on a green sticky) cycles in and out of the centre oval. The work is shifted towards blue and orange sectors, perhaps because I have neglected them recently – the “done” area has eight consecutive grey stickies.

This board follows two main principles of Personal Kanban – visualize and limit work-in-progress. Or maybe not, but I didn’t really care as I felt I needed to experiment with an unconventional layout. One way to think about this layout is to imagine a three-dimensional board having a conical shape. The flow is away from the cone’s base. Project it onto the base plane and you get concentric circles.

How Did It Go?

I have to admit this experiment wasn’t successful in the long run. The new board was fun at the start, but I never really a found good way to visualize recurring tasks, which was important to me. I didn’t find a good way to limit WIP effectively when a couple of recurring tasks had to cycle into the centre oval, causing some crowding.

So, here it is – try it, it might work for you. But I have already redrawn my board into something more conventional.

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