Open Thinkering


Month: June 2015

Claim your Kanban 101 badge!

Kanban 101 badgeYesterday, in HOWTO: Trello Kanban I showed how to use Trello for a Kanban-style workflow. It’s already proved to be one of the most popular posts I’ve written this year, and was picked up by the Trello team!

To me, the logical next step is to issue an Open Badge for getting started with a Trello-based Kanban system. That’s why I’ve created the Kanban 101 badge.

It’s deliberately low-bar. All you have to do is:

  • Set up a Trello account
  • Create a new board with (at least) three lists: To do, Doing, and Done
  • Add cards for new actions
  • Share a screenshot or link to their board being used in practice

If you get stuck, you can always watch the screencast I recorded yesterday!

Not received an Open Badge before? There’s more about the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) here. Once you’ve earned the Kanban 101 badge you’ll be given the option to ‘push’ it to the Mozilla backpack:

Kanban badge acceptance

I’m using to issue badges as they’ve got a really nice traffic light-based flow for reviewing evidence.

Claim your Kanban 101 badge now!

(note that this is in no way affiliated with Trello, I’m just a fan!)

HOWTO: Trello Kanban

Update: an earlier draft of this included a link to this awesome post on the Trello blog: Going Public! Roadmapping With A Public Trello Board. You should definitely check it out.

(no video above? click here!)


How do decisions get made in your organisation? How does work get done? Do you have agreed workflows? Does innovation happen inevitably or by accident?

The best organisations I’ve worked with have clear processes for how mission-critical things happen. For example, I’ve been part of:

  • a school with an unequivocal behaviour management and sanctions workflow
  • a global non-profit where work is based on ‘sprints’ and agile development methodologies
  • a university and an awarding body with a rigorous approach to issuing qualifications and credentials

Highly productive individuals, teams, and organisations don’t get to that level merely by accident. It happens through hard work on process which, in turn, leads to consistently-great outcomes.

Once you’ve got a strategy (i.e. ‘direction of travel’) and defined workflow (i.e.’milestones along the way’) you’re ready for Kanban:

Kanban is a method for managing knowledge work with an emphasis on just-in-time delivery while not overloading the team members. In this approach, the process, from definition of a task to its delivery to the customer, is displayed for participants to see. Team members pull work from a queue.

I’ve tried a number of ways of adopting a Kanban approach – some of them listed on this wiki page. The one I keep coming back to, however, is Trello. As the video at the top of this post shows, it’s simple but powerful:

Get started in 5 easy steps:

  1. Create a new Trello board.
  2. Create three lists: To Do, Doing, and Done.
  3. Set up tags – anything you want (personally, I use Writing, Editing, Researching, Collaborating, Reviewing, and Planning).
  4. Invite people to your board. 
  5. Add cards to the To Do list, ensuring they’ve got tags, have been assigned to people, and have a due date.


  • Create an Trello ‘organisation’ for all of the boards you share with your colleagues.
  • Add a couple of additional lists: Stalled (so cards don’t remain on your ‘To Do’ list forever) and Useful links (for information everyone needs to hand).
  • Attach an image to each card to differentiate them from others.
  • Change the background colour/image to quickly find the board you’re looking for.


I’m in the midst of introducing a Trello-based Kanban approach in an organisation that’s traditionally relied mostly on meetings and emails to get things done. Having seen a similar approach work so well elsewhere, I’m convinced it will boost productivity and cohesion within/across teams.

I’ll blog more about my findings in due course. 🙂

Weeknote 26/2015

Well, here we are, half-way through 2015! This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Issue #179 of Things We Learned This Week, thanks to the sponsorship of Think Associates! (I’m looking for a sponsor for September…)
  • Down in London on Tuesday and Wednesday (as usual). I stayed at citizenM London Bankside, mainly so I could take photos as inspiration for our upcoming loft conversion!
  • Leading a ‘brown bag lunch’ at City & Guilds on Open Badges with Bryan Mathers. Good turnout and even better Q&A.
  • Going out for dinner/drinks with Chris Kirk, Jason McGonigle, Harry Kinloch, and Bryan Mathers,
  • Breaking the screen of my Sony Xperia Z Ultra by putting it in the pocket of my bag and cramming it into a locker while I went swimming. I’m going to try and fix it myself.
  • Releasing Episode 15 of Today In Digital Education, the podcast I record weekly with Dai Barnes. This week’s episode was entitled Gizoogle ya data.
  • Plotting and planning some digital strategy stuff with Chris Kirk.
  • Performing some visual thinkery around Open Badges with Bryan Mathers.
  • Meeting up with Darshan Sanghrajka for coffee. He’s a fascinating and inspirational entrepreneur with a heart for social justice.
  • Made chair of the C&G Open Badges Strategy Group. One of the first things I’ve done is to create a meta-level Trello board to track projects. I found this post on the Trello blog invaluable, and will be writing more on this soon.
  • Reading Stoner by John Williams. It’s a melancholic but very moving novel. The writing is on a level with Paul Auster, if not beyond.
  • Discussing my pension options with a financial advisor. I was slightly unnerved that I seemed to know more about my options than he did…
  • Catching up with Steve Boneham and Andy Stewart. I’ve invited them to my super-secret Slack channel.
  • Going for lunch with Jonathan Sanderson. We share a mutual friend in the shape of Vinay Gupta and met in the rather lovely Tyneside Cinema cafe.
  • Writing an article for FE Week, planned with and illustrated by Bryan Mathers about technology and culture. I also wrote about Mozilla pushing on with Web Literacy Map v2.0.
  • Thinking about how I’m going to structure my week post-September. It looks like I’ll have a day a week open for other clients. I’ve got a few things queued up, but get in touch if you’ve something for me to get my teeth into!

Next week I’m working from home on Monday/Tuesday, then down in London Wednesday to Friday. It’s TEDx Newcastle on the Sunday, which I’m looking forward to attending.