Kanban for Kids

~ How a Lean Manufacturing Method Maximized the Productivity of my Team (of 9-year-olds!)


I have been working from my dining room for two years and have never received as many comments about anything in my office as this Kanban Board:


All that was needed to make this functional work of art was a huge piece of cardboard rescued from the recycle bin, colorful sticky notes, and a magic marker. Oh, and the 6-page instruction manual detailing the requirements of the 2022 Odyssey of the Mind vehicle problem.


Did I forget to mention that this Kanban board is maintained and used by the seven 4th graders on the OM team that I coach?


Each time I receive a compliment, I sheepishly admit that this is not actually my Kanban board. Rather it belongs to my team of nine year-olds.


The Kanban board is a wonderfully simple, yet effective visual workflow management tool. As a coach, it delights me to see the kids turn to the board to determine what they will work on next. This has vastly reduced the amount of confusion and time spent asking me to tell them what to do next.


More importantly it has given each of them the experience of managing and taking ownership of a long-term project. This board shows their progress 5 months into the project, with just 1 month remaining before the deadline. They have lots left to do, but they can easily see that and systematically plug through their tasks.


Using a Kanban board has helped them tremendously with their time management and workload distribution. The return on investment just from a time saved perspective is probably around 10 hours.


The return on investment from the perspective of the kids’ confidence level is priceless!

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