March 8 Day 365: Kanban

And so completes the first transit around the sun during the time of coronavirus. I never imaged a year later, we would be here—still remaining distant and not quite sure what the future holds.

At the end of the day, it can be hard to see what actually gets accomplished. Being a visual person I have used simple kanbans to organize my workflow for the past few years. Originally developed by Toyota engineer, Taiichi Ohno, to improve manufacturing efficiency, my version of a kanban is three lists: To Do, Doing, and Done. In the “before time,” I used sticky notes on the windows in my office—making it easy to move items from one column to the next.

I miss my physical kanban, my office, its incredible view, and regularly being in the presence of supportive colleagues. But I digress.

In the times of corona, I am using electronic kanbans. Pictured below is the one for a taskforce on which I am working. We have been meeting every other week since September and our recommendations are due a little over a month from now.

Today I marveled at how much we have accomplished together. Seeing the total yellow area in the Done column is very satisfying. Assignments get delegated and completed. The team is collaborative and efficient. Our final product is beginning to coalesce and we are about to seek early feedback from stakeholders. Yes, there is still work to be done, but almost all the sticky notes are actively in play. Those that remain in the To Do column will be moving over shortly.

I made a short video about organizing my work through kanbans for MAA’s Project NExT fellows in summer 2019. I’ll leave it here for those that are interested.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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