One of my biggest goals heading into the new year was to organize my work space and streamline my processes not only so I don’t have to try and keep dozens of to-do lists in my head, but so that I don’t have to waste precious sewing and writing time trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be working on at the moment.
I’m the first to admit that I have a habit of getting mired down in the minutiae of all the little tasks, often losing site of my bigger pictures and goals. My hubby, however, just happens to be one of those people that has a talent for seeing the over-arcing big picture. He’s a project manager by trade – and a very good one, at that – so naturally, I asked him to give my business processes a makeover.
One trip to Costco for a dry-erase board, 17 pounds of post-it notes, and permanent markers in all the colors of the rainbow, and I found myself as the owner of a brand-new Kanban board.
A Kanban board is a planning tool to help you visualize the status of your wips – which I’m told is not only a crafty term, but also Project Management term – who knew!! It also helps you to SEE your workflow and any bottlenecks that might occur with your processes. There are a number of online tools that can do the same, but there is something about having the whole thing on the wall, all the time, rather than out-of-sight-out-of-mind on a webpage.
The first step in setting up your own board is to break down all the aspects of your business into horizontal “swim lanes”. The key to a successful set-up, however, is to not get too specific. After a lot of thought, I narrowed mine down to Patterns, Quilts, Marketing, and Business.
After you’ve determined your “swim lane” headers, you break them down into task columns. Now, because I tend to over-complicate things, I was limited to no more than four tasks per lane. I surprised myself by actually not using all my cells, so I added in a few floating swim lanes at the bottom-right to catch the items that didn’t readily fall into the rest of my categories.
The next step is to grab those sticky notes and write out every single project in your queue, along with its due date. Because they belong in two different swim lanes, I wrote out two sticky notes for every project that has both a fabric version and a written pattern in development. That way, I can track the progress of each, individually.
Next, file all your stickies/projects into the correct lane and column. I also use six little magnets to show me, at a glance, where my focus should be directed. The idea is that you work from right to left, and that you never allow yourself to have more than 3 – 4 sticky notes in one column at once … theoretically. In reality, that’s not always possible, but having a ton of stickies in one column means that you need to focus your energy into clearing up the bottle neck and evening out your workflow … as in not starting more projects unless there is a space for them!!
My favorite part of the whole process is my winner’s circle! Once a sticky has progressed from left to right across the board, and the task is completely finished, I get the reward of moving it off the board and into the winners circle. I could just throw it away, but I’m finding that it’s a really nice little reward to see the little notes start to pile up.
After having used this process for about a month now, I am completely and utterly in love! It is so nice to the status of my entire business at a glance. If I find myself with a few unexpected minutes to work, I know exactly what I should be doing. And, now that I have a road-map as to what I’m working on, when it has to be finished, and how many other projects are in the queue behind it, I don’t feel nearly as bad taking a little time to myself in the evenings and taking more time off to goof around with my guys – which is probably the best part of it all!. ♥ ♥ ♥