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Kanban in the Home

This item in japanese


Practitioners are finding interesting applications of Kanban concepts in the home, far from the office and factory floor.

Joseph Flahiff was successful in introducing his young daughters to a Kanban for chores. He posted an interview with his daughters about the Kanban system they implemented. Previous to using Kanban, the girls had alternately chosen which chores each of them would do from a list of chores in an Excel spreadsheet. This lead to competition between the girls. According to them, this practice discouraged teamwork.

To implement a chores Kanban, Flahiff made a collection of sticky notes, each with a chore written on it. He designated part of a wall and a closet door as a task board, with sections labeled "Ready", "Doing", and "Done", and put all the chores to be done into the "Ready" section. The girls then moved chore stickies from "Ready" to "Doing" to "Done" as they did their work.

Work in progress (WIP) was intended to be limited to one sticky in the "Doing" column per girl, though a subsequent post shows the girls exceeding the WIP limit when blocked by an external dependency. As the girls completed each chore, they sought out a parent for approval regarding whether the chore was done or not. If approval was given, the chore could then be moved from "Doing" to "Done", and the girl could proceed to another chore in the "Ready" column.

The girls enjoyed using the Kanban system. They felt that Kanban fostered teamwork between them more than the previous system had, and they expressed a wish to do it again.

Another area where Kanban ideas have been successfully applied is in the realm of home finances. Jonathan Coleman writes about using Kanban concepts at home to work through a list of financial priorities.

Coleman and his wife first wrote cards for everything they wished to spend money on, one card per wish. They then placed these cards on the back of a door. Cards were placed in areas on the door corresponding to the following categories:

  • Must haves
  • Should haves
  • Nice to haves
  • Split to regular bills

During their weekly budgeting time, Coleman and his wife pulled the top priority card from the categories on the back of the door into a two-column Kanban, with the columns labeled "In progress" and "Done". WIP was limited to one wish card at a time in the "In progress" column. They then poured available spare money into financing the "In progress" wish, tracking progress towards financing that wish with a thermometer graph. Once achieved, the wish was moved to the "Done" column, and the next item was pulled into "In progress" from the back of the door.

Coleman writes:

Months Later - we look at our 'Done' pile - and the list of done items is slowly growing. We have something to be grateful for. Our needs and wants are getting met - albeit slowly - but with fun and gratefulness mixed in. We're inspired to tackle larger projects! We're enthusiastic about approaching the prioritization of our next wants and needs.

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