How to find the cards

When teams turn towards kanban as a process control method I often see people standing in front of the board asking “Where the #*$+%+ is the card with task #12345?“

Is that a problem of physical boards?

One could easily argue that this is because it is much harder to find a card on a board than it is by using an electronic search engine.
And I guess that is true.
But that is not the problem here. In my opinion the real problem here is that the board is not yet used as a tool but only as a reporting system.

If you use the board as a tool you never have to search a card

If you use the board as a tool to drive your work it is hard to image a situation where it would be necessary to really search a card. Since you would be working on one, and only one topic at a time you would know exactly where the card you’re working on right now is. And when it’s finished you would move it to the respective «done» column and select a new card on the board according to the station you’re working on and the prioritized cards on the board.
In most cases that card would be the topmost card in the «done» sub-column upstream from the one you’re going to work in. And once you select this card as your new item to work on, you would move it in the «doing» column of your selected station (e.g. development).
Since this is the card you are working on (perhaps together with somebody else, but in your responsibility) that card won’t move on it’s own. So you know exactly where it is. So once you’re finished with it you would move it to the respective «done» column… (see above)
Rinse and repeat.
No need to search for a card.
Unless you let your work be driven by another system – then of course the question arises “which is the leading system?”

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

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