Incorporating Kanban into your firm
The Kanban system of organisation can be of great benefit to accounting firms where time and capacity can be a huge limiting factor on growth.
Before I discovered the power of Kanban, I had always had my own system of keeping track of what I needed to do and to be honest it had served me well over the years. A list kept in my notebook! Depending on the degree of chaos in my life – either at work or home, or at times both – the process was adapted. Some weeks the list involved a number of large tasks that all fitted nicely onto an A4 page in my notebook. The page itself might start to resemble a patchwork quilt of types with scribbles, adages and side notes. But for the most part it was contained on the A4 page.
Then there were other weeks. My list started to merge into multiple pages of my notebook. Sometimes with clusters of client and internal meeting notes scattered between the day's “to-do list”. These weeks seemed to be defined by the rewriting and reworking of the actual “to-do” list. Transcribing the list to keep it all together and actionable from one location in the notebook. At times I considered multiple notebooks. But this just seemed a step too far…
Believe it or not, the system did work. Most of my tasks got actioned. Some – while actioned – no doubt to this day remain unticked and lost in the pages between internal meeting A and client meeting B.
Kanban however has provided me with a new structure. One I’m loving.
Kanban is the Japanese principle of “just in time”. Kanban translates to signboard or billboard in Japanese and is a scheduling system for lean and just in time manufacturing. Developed by an engineer at Toyota to improve manufacturing efficiency it is now also used in software development and agile environments. It’s a method of managing work which balances the demand for work to be done with the available capacity to get to this work. The user or teams would “pull” work as they have the capacity to action it, rather than have the work “pushed” on them.
This “pull” concept has revolutionised the way I approach my working week.
My introduction to Kanban came through the creation of a tool called Schedullo, a company I’m a co-founder of. While there are a bunch of Kanban tools out there, Schedullo has combined both the efficiency of the Kanban board with the effectiveness of an inbuilt calendar. This allows you to switch seamlessly between the Kanban and calendar functions and therefore maximise your impact and task completion.
Now when I start my day or find a small window of time I review my Kanban list and start to action tasks that are “ready” to be commenced. If the task was a sizeable piece of work – say an hour or more – I do schedule or block out time in my calendar – Schedullo synchronises with both Outlook and gmail with further integrations to come. But for the most part I have a whole range of tasks they are anticipated to take less than an hour to complete. The Kanban provides me with a format that is both visual and intuitive that my notebook just can no longer compete with.
Another thing Kanban has taught me is to try to only have two or three tasks on the go or “In Progress” at any time. If a task is pending someone else I transfer it to “Waiting on” and give myself 10 minutes at the end of each day and 15-20 minutes on a Friday to circle back on these tasks for follow up or reforecasting. As simple as it sounds the “Waiting on” alleviates a level of stress around my action list allowing me to focus on the “Ready” and “In progress” tasks.
My “Future Ideas and Concepts” is something I keep an eye on – especially if the time I have available is not compatible with a “Ready” or “In Progress” task. These are great for your team to help you progress or for actioning in times of procrastination. Any time a concept or idea pops into my head that I would like time to think about later or don’t want to forget, I record it as a “Future Idea and Concept”. This way I don’t lose it. The Android and iPhone apps allow me to record these at any time – even for those midnight musings. Such musings were notorious for falling into the cracks of notebook pages or forgotten on the cusp of my consciousness.
Kate Blecich, co-founder, Schedullo