The 10 foot, 3 second rule

Posted on May 15th, 2010 in Kanban, Silver Catalyst, Silver Stories, Visual Management by siddharta || 3 Comments

Here is a question for you: How long does it take to identify that you have a problem with your process? A month? A week? A day?

Ideally, you want this information in near real time. A well designed Kanban board can do this if you design it with the 10 foot, 3 second rule in mind.

The 10 foot, 3 second rule

The rule says that a person should be able to look at the Kanban board from 10 feet away, and should be able to understand what is going on within 3 seconds.

Kanban uses visual management to achieve this. Humans are well evolved to quickly make sense of shapes, patterns and colors. We can leverage this to design boards that convey more information within seconds. Here are some ideas:

  1. Using color
    1. Mark blocked work items prominently with red tape
    2. Use colored stickers to indicate states, eg: code review complete
    3. Highlight columns that are above the work in process limit
  2. Using shape
    1. Look at the shape created by the cards in each column. This gives a quick indication of the flow of work items
    2. Look at columns where cards are piling up to identify bottlenecks
  3. Using patterns
    1. Use colored cards to depict work item type or class of service. Quickly identify the type of work in the system by looking at the color across the board
    2. Use a colored sticker or a small picture to indicate who is working on each work item. Then glance around the board to quickly identify who is working on what

With a single board, you can now answer questions such as:

  • Are work items flowing smoothly through the system?
  • Where are the bottlenecks?
  • What kind of work items are we working on?
  • Who is working on what?
  • Are too many items waiting in queues?
  • What is the next action required to move a work item forward?
  • How many work items are blocked? Why? Do we need to investigate for root causes?

Are you spending hours searching, filtering and mining around a messy spreadsheet or database to answer these questions? By making things visual, you can get all the answers in a few seconds.

Support for visual management in Silver Catalyst

Visual management techniques are a core part of the way Silver Catalyst is designed. Each screen of the tool uses color, shape and patterns so that you can quickly identify multiple trends in a few seconds. Try taking the taskboard in Silver Catalyst and projecting it on to a wall to quickly enable the 10 foot 3 second rule.

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3 Responses to “The 10 foot, 3 second rule”

  1. Silver Stories in Action: Story Trees » Silver Stripe Blog » Blog Archive Says:

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