Visualizing Family Ties with Kanban

In my previous post, I wrote about the importance of sharing personal goals with those around you and how Personal Kanban helps to do that. By visualizing the things you’re working on – whether they are big dreams or small projects – you create opportunities for conversation and sharing that may otherwise never happen if you kept everything in your head, personal diary or a To Do list on your tablet.

Staying Connected

One of the major challenges in our nuclear family’s life is staying in touch with our extended family.  This is because my husband and I chose to relocate away from our respective families when we got married. I mean, who can resist the allure of Cape Town compared to Johannesburg or Bloemfontein? 😉

As we started raising our own family, and the pressures of life, work and parenting started mounting up, we found it’s all too easy for a week or two (or three …)  to go by without a phone call or an e-mail to granny or grandpa. This has increasingly led to our feeling disconnected from the rest of the family and our boys knowing shockingly little about the rest of the family.

After the umpteenth recrimination from my mother, I decided to do something about this not-so-little problem.

Enter  … The Family Tree Kanban

A family tree as a kanban

Our Family Tree Kanban

As you can see, it’s still a work in progress, but I wanted to share this as an example of an alternative (fun!) way of visualizing recurring personal tasks, rather than the typical linear Personal Kanban board.

The idea is to add pictures of  each family member we want to stay in touch with regularly, with lines showing the relationship between them. I plan to make a mini-project of this with the boys, e.g. getting them to help me choose the pictures, and figure out the lines to use. Perhaps different color wool for different types of relationships – parent-child, sibling?

The second part, is to find a way to show when last we had contact with this particular family member. As with my small horizon exercise kanban, I simply want to see the last time we interacted with the particular family member, in a way that will trigger an action (the fundamental purpose of a “kanban” in the Toyota Production System) for us to contact them right now.

I’m mulling over a few options for this “interaction trigger”, but I’m not really sold on any of them yet. So if you have some bright ideas to share, please do so in the comments below!

Also, do you think this kind of playful, non-linear family Kanban could work for your family, or even for a school or work project you’re working on? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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4 Responses to Visualizing Family Ties with Kanban

  1. Patty says:

    When we spoke a while back I believe you touched on starting this. I am immediately in love with this. This is fantastic! I am so glad you blogged about this. I’m sure this will find it’s way into my classroom at some point. Thank you.

  2. Hi, Patty! Nice to hear from you. Yes, this is what I was referring to on our call. I hoped you’d get involved in the discussion, actually. Next time, I’ll @ you when I tweet out a new post.

    With your classroom kanban, I wondered if you had some suggestions for the “trigger” on this kanban? I don’t want to do boring check boxes for phone/mail/chat/letter, but something more fun and tactile for the kids.

  3. Gerry Kirk says:

    Great visual Maritza. A few ideas to show which relationships need attention:

    1. Change colour of apple as it ‘degrades’, maybe a yellow then brown. It means having a few apples for each person handy.

    2. Layer circles on top of tree. Innermost circle has highest priority for communication. Move apples between circles as priorities change.

    Curious to see what you come up with!


    • Hi Gerry,

      Thanks for these great ideas. I had been toying with the circles idea myself, but as I want to teach some genealogy at the same time, apples need to stay put on the tree in their respective familial relationships. So the changing colors of the apples sound like a definite option. The apples are in fact painted onto the tree at the moment, but that’s easily remedied if I make additional apples that can be stuck on top of each other as the colors change. I could even get each family member to take turns to check the state of the tree, just like we have a weekend kanban task to “check plants” to see which need water, we could have something similar to check for yellow or brown apples.

      I made some progress this weekend with getting pictures printed for family members and these should be going up within the week.

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