Tag Archives: Solopreneurs

The Digital Nomad – Part 3 – Improve Your Productivity Kanban-Style

Last week, when you could not fall asleep because you felt overwhelmed by the increasing number of items on your to-do list, you had the brilliant idea to buy post-its and start to plan your next four weeks. Then, you also thought about writing down your 25 priorities. 

You already felt a little relieved and fell asleep. However, the question remains “did you actually do what you planned the day after?”

I bet you didn’t do it even if you thought it was a great idea.

 

The good news is that what happened to you last week happens to most of us too. The bad news is that when you do this in your personal life, you are more inclined to do the same in your professional life as well. We accept a mediocre solution or we try to put a plaster on a process instead of analyzing the root cause of the issue.

According to Schwarzt et al (2014), the great majority of companies see this phenomenon as a challenge to productivity and overall performance, but struggles to handle it. According to Deloitte, over half of the respondents to her survey  say that “their organizations are not doing a good job helping workers address information overload and today’s demanding work environment.” 57 percent believe their organizations are “weak” when it comes to helping leaders manage difficult schedules and supporting employees manage information flow.

Have we lost all of our ideals of Total Quality Management (This is a management approach to long-term process through customer satisfaction. In a Total Quality Management effort, all members of an organization participates in improving processes, products, services and the culture in which they work)  from the good old nineties? Do you know about Kanban and visualizing process flows?

We need to learn how to become more productive and we need to learn it now. If, like me, you are always eager to receive tips on how to increase productivity, check this podcast out.

Kanban 

Kanban is a lean method which originated in lean manufacturing, which was inspired by the Toyota Production System. It aims at managing work by balancing demands with available capacity, and by improving the handling of system-level bottlenecks. 

In knowledge work and in software development, the aim is to provide a visual process management system which facilitates decision-making about what, when, and how much to produce. 

Among the most important characteristics is that work items are visualized to provide a view of progress and process, from start to finish, usually through a Kanban board. Indeed, in Japanese, kanban means “signboard” or “billboard.”

Kanban Boards 

A colorful, tidy and good-looking kanban board is one of the most effective tools in project management. It can be used to plan and work through any project, both in your personal and professional life. 

Kanban boards visually display a certain process in its various stages using cards to represent work items and columns to represent each phase of the process. Cards are moved from left to right to show progress and to help coordinate teams performing the work. 

Simple boards have vertical columns for the “to-do”, “doing”, and “done” work.  Alternatively, they may be labelled “waiting”, “in progress” and “completed”. Complex Kanban boards can also be divided into horizontal “swim lanes” representing different types of work or different teams performing the work. Additionally, it can subdivide the “in progress” work into multiple columns to visualise the flow of work across a whole value stream map.

Example of a Kanban board:

 

Seven core practices for Kanban

 

Here I suggest six core practices that will make you optimize the efficiency of the tool and become a master of kanban boards.

  1. Visualize the flow of work. You cannot work on a Kanban board, either physical or electronic, if you cannot visualize the process steps needed to deliver your work. Depending on the complexity of your process and your work-mix, your Kanban board can be very simple or very elaborate. Once you visualize your process, then you can visualize the current work that you and your team are doing. 
  2. Use Colors. Use post-its in different colors for different types of projects. Or, if you decide to use this tool for personal life projects, consider using different colors for different kinds of activities (orange for the projects you wish to complete at home, yellow for your children’s requests, and so on).
  3. Limit WIP (Work in Progress). It’s important to reduce WIP to a minimum to encourage yourself and your team to complete work at hand first before taking up new work. Work currently in progress must be completed and marked done. This creates capacity in the system, so that you can focus on new tasks. Limiting WIP helps you finish what they are doing already before taking up new stuff. This practice is also useful because it communicates to the customer and other stakeholders that there is limited capacity to do work, and they need to plan carefully what work they ask you or your team to do.
  4. Manage Flow.. A Kanban system helps you manage flow by highlighting the various phases of the workflow and the status of work in every single phase. Based on how well you defined the workflow and set the limits to WIP, you will observe either a smooth flow of processes or work piling up as a bottleneck forms and starts to hold up capacity. Kanban helps you analyze the system and adjust their work accordingly to improve flow. In this way, you will manage to reduce the time it takes to complete each task. By improving flow, your delivery of work becomes smoother and more predictable, making it easier to communicate to your customer when you will manage to get any work done. You will also automatically increase your reliability to your customers’ eyes.
  5. Make Process Policies Explicit. Visualize explicitly your policies, process rules or guidelines for how you do your work. In this way, you create common ground for all those involved in the process to understand how to work in the system. The various policies can be at the board level or at a “swim lane” level or for each column. Examples of explicit policies are: what defines a task complete, what describes individual “swim lanes” or columns, who pulls when, etc. 
  6. Implement Feedback Loops. This practice is an essential part of any good system. Kanban encourages and helps you implement different types of feedback loops. If you want to deliver the right work in the shortest possible time, it’s crucial to get feedback early, especially if you ended up on the wrong track.
  7. Improve Collaboratively, Evolve Experimentally (using the scientific method). The Kanban Method helps you implement small changes and improve gradually in a way that is sustainable for you and your team. It encourages you to form a hypothesis, test it and make changes according to the results you obtain. In a few words, it aims at tackling issues through a scientific method. As an individual or team who aims at being agile, it’s fundamental that you evaluate your process continuously and improve as much as needed.

Notable tools

This is a list of tools that implement the Kanban method. You can test some of them for free.

  • Asana, with boards.
  • Azure DevOps Server, an integrated ALM-platform for managing work in and across multiple teams.
  • CA Technologies Rally, provides teams with the option of managing pull-based, lean software development projects.
  • Unicom Focal Point, a portfolio management and product management tool.
  • Jira (software), provides kanban boards.
  • Microsoft Planner, a planning application available on the Microsoft Office 365 platform.
  • Pivotal Tracker provides kanban boards.
  • Projektron BCS, project management tool, provides kanban boards for tickets and tasks.
  • Trello, cards-based project management.
  • Tuleap, an agile open source tool for development teams: customize board columns, set WIP (Work In Progress), connect board with Issue Trackers, Git, Documents.
  • Twproject (formerly Teamwork), project and groupware management tool.
  • Wrike, an Agile Collaborative Work Management Platform.

Reflection

Think of three ways a Kanban board could facilitate your own professional and/or private life. When you come up with ideas, try to be very specific. They have to reflect what you do and how you operate on your daily routine. 

If you haven’t tried Trello yet, try navigating it and setting up your own account.

 

Resources

If you want to learn more about Kanban: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanban_(development)

If you want to learn more about Kanban implementations and Kanban boards:

https://www.digite.com/kanban/what-is-kanban/ 

If you want to know why you should use Kanban in marketing https://business901.com/blog1/why-you-should-use-kanban-in-marketing/

If you think your lack of digital competencies is affecting your productivity: https://globalpeopletransitions.com/lack-of-digital-competence-affecting-your-productivity-heres-how-you-escape-that-rut/

If you’re curious to know more about the benefits of handwriting: https://www.fastcompany.com/90389979/5-times-when-using-paper-and-a-pen-is-better-than-using-an-app

References

Piper, J. (2018). Focus in the age of distraction: 35 tips to focus more and work less. Panoma Press, St. Albans.

Schwartz J. et al. (2018, Aug. 4), ‘The overwhelmed employee: Simplify the work environment.’ Deloitte University Press. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2014/hc-trends-2014-overwhelmed-employee.html#:~:text=The%20overwhelmed%20employee%20Simplify%20the%20work%20environment&text=Too%20much%20access%20to%20information,us%20into%20%E2%80%9Coverwhelmed%E2%80%9D%20employees.&text=Sixty%2Dfive%20percent%20of%20executives,ready%E2%80%9D%20to%20deal%20with%20it

Productivity Makeover with Graham Allcott (Podcast): https://www.sundaebean.com/2019/12/02/152-productivity-makeoverwith-graham-allcott/

If you’re curious to know more about the benefits of handwriting: https://www.fastcompany.com/90389979/5-times-when-using-paper-and-a-pen-is-better-than-using-an-app

References

Piper, J. (2018). Focus in the age of distraction: 35 tips to focus more and work less. Panoma Press, St. Albans.

Schwartz J. et al. (2018, Aug. 4), ‘The overwhelmed employee: Simplify the work environment.’ Deloitte University Press. 

Milk Car

by Oyin Adedokun  

oyindamola@globalpeopletransitions.com 

There is no doubt that the novel Coronavirus has taken its toll on your business. A lot of things are not working perfectly and the little things that are, are only doing so skeletally. There is a current wave of uncertainty, volatility, and complexities that is sweeping the world. However, I have some good news for you. Yes, good news! You are not the only one in this whole drama. We are all in this together. There is nothing to be gained from asking the question ‘when will this pandemic be over?’ because nobody knows. The best you can do instead is to start taking measures to stay ahead of the pandemic. Now, here is the good news. I will give you seven strategies that will allow your business to stay afloat this pandemic and its gruesome impacts.

Identify the unique challenges confronting your business. The starting point to proffering viable solutions to any problem is to first identify the problem itself. It’s quite amazing that many people run helter-skelter seeking solutions, yet give vague answers such as Coronavirus when asked what exactly the problem is. You must be explicit about the challenges confronting your business.

Be Flexible. This period requires the fortitude to be able to adapt conveniently with the series of changes that are sweeping across the world. A lot of decisions would need to be made promptly as events continue to unfold.

Embrace technology. The novel Coronavirus has fast-tracked the emergence of a digital world. As the need for physical touch and presence in executing and managing business suddenly fizzles out, the need to embrace digital contacts has further been accentuated by the pandemic.  According to Forbes’  the Corona Pandemic is forcing digital transformation. 

Apply for social security packages. You might be eligible for a support package for your business in your location targeted at cushioning the effect of Coronavirus. Governments are making a lot of fiscal and monetary policies geared towards stimulating the economy by supporting companies from suffering bankruptcy and facilitating a sustainable recovery.

Ensure effective Communication. This point ought to be at the head of the list because it is a non-negotiable factor to keeping your business running successfully during and even after Coronavirus.  You must be able to keep in touch constantly with your employees, clients, and customers. This is simply because you must keep intact the trust that relevant stakeholders have in you. The greatest tool for achieving this is tomaintain constant and effective communication with both your customers and stakeholders. Employ the service of a copywriter, if possible.

Think ahead.  It is imperative to think about what would be obtainable after Coronavirus is over or perhaps, when the social restrictions are totally lifted. You need to put strategies in place that would give you a competitive advantage. Think about what could be done differently. How do you deliver to your clients in the most dynamic way that keeps them glued as patrons of your services? These and more are the questions you must consistently ask yourself. Our RockMeApp provides you with the facility to help you get ahead. 

Lastly, keep a positive and optimistic mind. I know that the world is currently a difficult place to live in. And even the image of the Coronavirus itself looks scary on its own (well, maybe for me). However, I want you to know that things will fall back to normal. It might interest you to know that this is not the worst pandemic that has ever confronted the world. The world has conquered over and again. We will whip this pandemic as well. But you need to have a positive and optimistic outlook about life to keep your sanity and maintain belief. The fact that you are taking out time to read this piece means you already have hope that things will get better, and trust me, they will.

This too shall pass. Remain positive. Cheers.

Oyin.

Further Reading:

Is COVID-19 Forcing Your Digital Transfomation? 12 Steps To Move Faster:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2020/04/05/is-covid-19-forcing-your-digital-transformation-12-steps-to-move-faster/#44f6f1f5617b

ILO: Social protection responses to the COVID-19 crisis-Country responses and policy considerations 

Doing Business during COVID-19: Going Online to Weather the Storm: https://www.tomedes.com/business-center/doing-business-under-covid19  

Oyin is an immigration specialist in Nigeria and will work for GPT from September 2020 as an Academic Intern.
About Oyin
Oyin-Ayo Adedokun is a seasoned Immigration Specialist, who engages effective and efficient measures in providing expatriates with the processing of all relevant visas such as, Residence Permits, Quota Approvals, Temporary Work Permit and any other work-related documents required to enable expatriates to work in Nigeria, with a demonstrated history of working in the oil and energy industry.
Oyin has a practical insight into how the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the Ministry of Interior work and so, facilitates itch-free immigration processes.
He prides himself in mobilizing human capital for international businesses, as well as investors from the global pool of human resources while ensuring that they have a stress-free immigration process both in Nigeria and at various Nigerian Embassies and High Commission all over the world. He is currently managing the immigration facilities of well over 100 expats in one of the leading oil servicing companies in West Africa.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/oyindamola-ayomide-adedokun/
Digital Marketing

by Taylor McKinney

As a solopreneur, you know that no good business can run without a solid digital strategy. After all, failing to plan is planning to fail. With a carefully curated approach, you can anticipate increased sales, new and returning customers, and long-term growth. Here’s what you need to know about creating your digital strategy as a team of one.

Determine your mission

This is the foundation upon which your entire business is run, so consider this one carefully. For example, Patagonia’s mission statement isn’t just about selling outdoor clothing and gear, but to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Ask yourself what’s at the heart of your business and what made you pursue it in the first place? These core values will be echoed and maximized in all parts of your brand and marketing, so make sure it’s authentic and something you’re proud of. It should be about more than revenue, but how you’re planning to make your place in the world and make the lives of your customers better or easier, no matter how small the scale. Look to bigger companies for influence if necessary, and especially these inspiring mission statements.

Identify Your Goals and Measure Them

Key Performance Indicators and targets goals—it’s all business-speak for the most important part of growing your business, which is identifying where you want to be and tracking your performance to get there.

If you’re just starting out, choose “stretch goals” or achievements that won’t be easy, but are still realistic. Make sure they’re quantifiable and able to be tracked, whether it’s getting 100 email subscriptions or 500 followers on social media.

If you’re already in the business, consider increasing your lead generation by 25% or to increase time on page by 20% in the next month. Google Analytics and other web analytics tools are great to help measure your conversions, social media analytics will track your engagement. Content marketing software can measure the success of your content marketing.

Develop Audience Personas

A successful business speaks the language of their customers or buyers. And just like with the mission statement example, chances are you have an idea of who’s using your services or buying your products, but why settle for a roundabout guess when you can use data to find out the nitty-gritty of who they are and what they need?

To start with, record all the demographic information of your customers. To find out how they best like to engage, determine how they find and interact with your content through Google Analytics. If you don’t have access to this information, add form fields or surveys to your site to capture all pertinent data. You can even determine trends and personas through feedback and communication via your social media sites. These persona templates will help you get started.

Strategize with SEO—and Update it Frequently

You’ve put countless hours into your content creation and overall marketing strategy—and it’ll all be for naught if no one sees it. If you’re just starting out here, make a list of themes or topics that are most relevant to your brand—both descriptions of your product or services, as well as possible blog topics—and conduct keyword research (both short and long tail) via Google Keyword Planner to see what terms you should be targeting in your page structure, as well as anchor text, meta description, h2 tags, and titles, etc.

You’ll also want to initiate a link building plan to get backlinks, so reach out to relevant sites and offer to write content for them in exchange for a link back to your site. Once you’ve optimized your site and all associated content and marketing materials, continue to monitor your progress, as well as that of any direct competitors.

The best part is that this digital marketing plan is scalable, no matter how many people you add, or how many moving parts you add to your vision. These steps are a solid core of the business plan to help you stay ahead of the curve, keep ahead of digital marketing trends, and fully achieve your business goals.

Taylor McKinney is a Marketing Specialist at TrustRadius, which has become the most trusted website for B2B software reviews. When she is not writing about the latest tools and small business trends she is enjoying Austin’s beautiful scenery with her family.