Two PIM concepts from breakfast with Larry

I had breakfast with Larry this morning, and, among other topics, we discussed two PIM concepts he had raised in an email: “swim lanes” and “threads”.

Swim lanes are a familiar Kanban concept: you have a Kanban board divided into columns showing steps in a work process: “To Do”, “Doing”, “Done” in the base case.  Swim lanes divide the columns horizontally:

Swim lanes on a Kanban board (courtesy

For a project board like this one, swim lanes are something like modules within the product or project.  For a personal board, such as we were talking about for PIM, swim lanes seem closes to “Roles” — “Parent”, “Manager”, “Pilgrim”, etc.

The virtue of swim lanes, per Larry, is that they show, at a glance, how the pending workflow is divided by role.  Are you spending too much time on work stuff, are you shorting your spiritual development.  The column limit makes sure you aren’t taking on too much WIP at once.  The horizontal swim lane shows how things are going in the role.

“Threads” turned out to be a subtler idea, and one that neither Larry’s Kanban world nor my “hierarchy of tasks” world does particularly well.

Per Larry, a thread is, like in computers, a lightweight process where the sequence of tasks is important and the generation of new tasks is important.

We all have experiences like this, where what seems like a simple atomic task turns out to have subparts, and where the thread itself generates new tasks as it goes along.

Larry’s example was spec-ing windows for a house he’s building.  The process of vetting each particular window vendor spawns new tasks, and the process itself generates a need to vet new vendors.

Larry wanted some element on the Kanban board that visually tracks this “thread” relationship.

I guess I handle this in my hierarchy world by an exploded view of the thread.  By just exploding the thread itself, but keeping the rest of the hierarchy collapsed, you can see the relationships between the tasks and the new tasks in the thread:


Larry wasn’t completely happy with this, but it was a start.

How to handle swim lanes/roles and threads?  Your comments?


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