Personal Kanban

Given the great response on my last book review, here is another one! As you can see I have continued my journey in Kanbanland and read ”Personal Kanban”, with the under title ”Mapping Work | Navigating Life” by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry. The book was released 2011.


The book starts with an introduction to the work life of Mr. Benson. He co-owned a software development company from 2000 to 2008. Then he started Modus Cooperandi, a company built around collaborative management, together with two other known persons in the Agile arena, namely: Corey Ladas (author of ”Scrumban”) and David J Anderson (the founder of Kanban and author to ”Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business”, often referred to as ”the blue book”). Imagine to have been a fly on the wall back then to overhear their conversations!

What’s more in the book? As you may have guessed, it’s about how to use Kanban on a personal level, and it focus solely on two of Kanban’s core practices:

  • Visualize your work
  • Limit your Work-in-Progress (WIP)

It may seem a too narrow scope, but according to me those two are the most powerful of the Kanban core practices.

Personal Kanban

Here is a short introduction to what Personal Kanban are:

  • A productivity tool: Limiting our WIP helps us accomplish more
  • An efficiency tool: Focusing on our value stream encourages us to find ways to work while expending less effort
  • An effectiveness tool: Making our options explicit helps us make informed decisions

This sound pretty easy, and the book is all about giving context and explanations to the fairly simple ”rules” of Personal Kanban. The book dive deeper into things like flow, slack, priority and continuous improvements. The real hidden gem (for me personally) is the Appendix A – Personal Kanban Design Patterns which holds several different approaches on how to visualize your Kanban board.

What is the takeaways from this book? First I’d like to quote the authors:

If there are two takeaways from this book, we hope they are: ”Work unseen is work uncontrolled” and ”We can’t (and shouldn’t) do more work than we can handle”.


This book gets really personal about Kanban! I’ll recommend it to all knowledge workers that wants to get priority, productivity and efficiency into their work and personal life. If you want to know more you can visit the personalkanban web site.


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