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Kanban in the Home

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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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Community comments

  • Works great for homework

    by Matt Anderson,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I have used a personal Kanban with my kids to help them keep track of homework and upcoming assignments. It has worked tremendously well for my forgetful son and he is able to stay on top of his class work without any challenges. He knows that as soon as he gets an assignment, a card gets filled out.

  • I think we're going to see a lot more kanban use in various other domains

    by Floyd Marinescu,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I think we're going to start seeing a lot more Kanban use in various other domains like this. It is starting to get seen by many more people but I think is still fairly unknown outside of software development and I guess manufacturing. Whenever I show kanban's that we use for some of our editorial processes to outsiders their eyes always light up.

  • I Used it When Moving House and New Baby

    by Tom Philip,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I used a kanban just like the one mentioned when we moved house in February. Worked really well and we're still using it today for other stuff that needs doing it. The best thing about it was the visibility. It meant that we could easily see something had been thought about and captured and if it was in progress. There's a pic on the blog post I wrote about it

  • Hey! Thanks so much

    by Jonathan Coleman,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Good to see other people using Agile techniques in the home. :) I've loved the results in our house.

    Just about to get on my motorbike and ride home :)

    Thanks for the link love.

    It's true that whenever i proseltyse the techniques from Agile outside Software Engineering - they really grab a hold of the big visual indicators, the high bandwidth interaction, the short sprints. All these techniques can be used outside of Software with great success.

    See ya.

  • Re: Works great for homework

    by Houda Mansouri,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    We are parents of 3 young kids who applied kanban at work and home for the last 2 years, we wrote an app that runs on a tablet to track homework assignments using kanban concepts. Our kids are using it and enjoying it. They all have a tablet on their desk and like you said, they know to create a task as soon an they get assignments. We did that for our kids, to help them 'not forget' their homework in a better and efficient way that physical boards :) With time, a physical board was becoming hard to manage, stickers fall down, hard to keep track on what was done etc...
    We want to share our app with all of you who beleive in kanban... It is a free app that runs on an android tablet. The app is called KanPlan.

    Check the web site,

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