One of the Lean mottos that I have most in the front of my mind lately is "If you are not visual, you are not Lean". In the end, we need to make our problems visual, to put our thoughts in front of our eyes, before we can do anything to solve them.
The kanban board is one of the classic Lean tools, and it is deceptively simple. In its basic manifestation, it only has 3 columns, "Pending", "Doing", "Done". You create a "card" or "sign" (kanban in japanese) for each thing you want to do, and you start to flow them from left to right through the process.
As with most of the Lean tools, what is important here is the thought discipline that this generates in you. As you start to visualize your work, you start to understand it better. You get ideas of how to make the whole thing flow better. Then one day you find that, for example, it might make sense to break the "Doing" category into two, depending on different states of the thing you're making (for example, speaking of songs, "composing", when the whole structure is complete, vs "Recording"). The cards on the board tell you where you are, how many items are on each area, etc...
Another benefit of the kanban board, and not a little one, is that it helps you do one thing at a time. It seems there is a certain flaw in our brains that makes us think, whenever we have a lot of things to do, that we have to do all "at the same time". It's like our brain always lives in the present moment, no sense of "now this one, later that one". But when we SEE this item is here, Work In Process, while the other one is on its left, "behind", maybe waiting for x to happen... We automatically feel relieved.
And besides, as you can move the items through space, you can also prioritize them and become more strategic.
This reflection comes now to me because the other day, after a period of some pondering, feeling somewhat cluttered and needing the new level of clarity, I finally had an important "eureka" about a better visual device for the flow of my songs. (A visual device must be simple, and sometimes it takes a lot of work to get it to be that simple).
I used to have different kanban boards for my different b(r)ands, which implied a lot of duplication whenever I came up with an improvement in the process. Now I've found a way to color code things so that they can coexist on one single page, making a gazillion of information available without giving you a headache. The transformation took me a couple of hours, but I have to say it was one of those couple of hours where you're so fascinated that you hardly can stand up from the seat. Suddenly I was seeing my work in a completely different manner, and feeling motivated and energized again, knowing exactly what to do next.
Short after finishing this visual, it came to me a new riff for one of the songs I have in the "composing" column. Busy as I've been with the other stages of recording, it's been long since the Muse last visited me. I'm pretty sure that this was no coincidence; a gap was created, and where there's a space, there can always be a playground :)
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it