I was re-reading the transcription of a podcast on Personal Kanban and this topic of backlog jumped out at me. How do you deal with your backlog? How long does something get to stay in it? Youmay want to skip the blog post and read the entire transcription or listen to the podcast: Pascal Pinck Speaks on Personal Kanban.
Joe: I always think what is interesting when you have a backlog, some of these things just sit there and they never get done and it is why they are backlogged, maybe they never needed to be done.
Pascal: That is a really interesting topic because lately I have been part of, we had a lead Kanban meet up here in Los Angeles, that I am fortunate to be a part of. We had a conversation at one of the recent meetups about the differences and also, in a way, some of the overlaps between GTD, you know, “Getting Things Done,” David Allen’s work.
And personal Kanban because some of the folks there were using it like I do what we started to think about there is, what happens to the stuff that isn’t a high priority. Because if you look at the objective, I will make an argument, I mean I am no GTD expert and so I am not trying to say something definitive. From where I sit the objectives for me if I am using personal comment verses if I might be using GTD around the most important issues, the stuff I am going to do, you know, today, in the next couple of hours, tomorrow, that kind of high priority stuff.
I think probably the objectives in some of the basic kind of way that the flow works is pretty similar. I don’t see huge significant earth-shattering differences around the areas of the most important stuff. Where I think there are some interesting philosophical differences, this doesn’t come from Kanban per se, but more from the lean philosophy, is how we treat things that are at a relatively or very low priority. You talked about this issue of I put stuff in my backlog and it stinks. I think GTD has the tickler file if I may be using the wrong word, but stuff that is not important, but it is something you want to hold on to in your system because you do not want it stuck in your head. Certainly I am all in favor of taking stuff out of your head and putting it down. You know if the best place for you to put it down to feel OK about is your backlog or your GTD tickler file or a shoe box full of post-its. It does matter that we all know that you have got to get it out of your head. I mean, otherwise you’re banned with your work in progress cognitively is just going to suffer dramatically and you are not going to be able to perform.
The question that really interests me is once I put it on paper, I got it out of my head or I put it in some kind of electronic form, what happens to it then? GTD is very clear on this. It is like you put it in a setting where it is contained, but where periodically, maybe over a period of months or even years, you can come back to it. I think the lean philosophy that we are working from when we use Kanban, personal Kanban, is a little different. My feeling is that what I have been able to see as a result of working with personal Kanban for some time now is that I have been able to understand in a way that I did not before that having something that I keep track of that is something that I might do some day, that no matter how small it is, it has a cost. That there is an inventory cost to holding on to something as something that I might, a particular task, activity, objective or whatever it is that I might do someday.
In thinking about that inventory and the desire, that I kind of come back with from coming from my infinite to lean thinking is, I want to reduce my inventory and the desire to reduce my inventory and the recognition that that inventory has a cost has helped me give myself permission to drop stuff out of the long-term backlog. As a result of practicing this, I delete stuff all of the time that has been there for three, two weeks, three weeks, a month. More and more I am coming to the opinion that if I have something in the board and it has not moved in a couple weeks, then you know what, it is not important enough to pay interest on. Pay the rent. I think that is probably the best way that I would describe it. If I have something on my board somewhere, whether the board is virtual or whatever form it is, to have it take up that space on the board, I am paying rent because something else could be there or better nothing could be there.
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