My Big Fat Indian-American Thanksgiving – Kanban to the Rescue!


Thanksgiving each year is a big occasion for our family and friends – to get together and eat, drink and be merry – and of course, be grateful for what we have! Yet, right before that, during the days leading up to it, there is a sense of angst that builds up as one question occupies the hosts’ – and the rest of the people cooking (we always do it Potluck) – mind – “What shall be the menu for the Big Day??!!”

While the thought of getting together and eating, drinking and being merry is everyone’s top priority, it is the what we will be eating and drinking that becomes the biggest factor in whether we will be merry or not!

While the kids – all born in the US and truly American – look forward to the traditional Thanksgiving fare with gusto, most of the adults – all first-generation Indian Americans – look upon it with trepidation! And if we have a few grandparents – such as my Mom – in the mix, you have unbridled suspicion and disdain in full display.

“The food is SO BLAND! And how can you eat it with a SWEET sauce?! Why don’t we do tandoori turkey? It should taste just the same. Or can we not just replace it with tandoori chicken? After all, the American chickens are much bigger than Indian chicken – but that is only because they have been fed so many hormones and have no taste….” – and someone has to step in and calm things down. As soon as the kids hear this discussion, they go on the war path! My 12-year old daughter – “Dad, THIS time we HAVE to have AMERICAN food on Thanksgiving!!! How can you have Thanksgiving without the Thanksgiving meal?! I am NOT eating tandoori chicken this time!!”

So, after much moaning and groaning, on a couple of occasions, including this year, we have decided to do BOTH American (“real Thanksgiving) fare and Indian food – and everyone is really looking forward to it – except the cooks and the hosts. Too much coordination and tracking and no one quite clear when they should start and be done by. And the hosts wondering where everything and everyone is in order to have everything ready just-in-time! And THAT triggered a thought – why not use Kanban for Thanksgiving?! And that is what we did!

So, we came up with a flow after some discussion – and put together the following –

A Planning lane – as you can see – things are well into Execution!

Kanban Planning Board

And after much debate, we defined 2 separate flows for the American and the Indian fare – the argument being, Indian food had more prep – more ‘value-adding’ steps. I thought the turkey was the most complex – and our hostess agreed – she was doing the turkey! (I am doing Australian Lamb puffs!) Finally here what we came up with –

The “Real Thanksgiving food” lane –

Kanban For Thanks Giving

And the “Thank goodness there is Indian” food lane –

Food Kanban Board

We decided WIP limits were not needed – since the available time, the occasion and people’s appetites all naturally enforced them 🙂

And of course, since this was being done across 5 ZIP codes, I pulled in SwiftKanban to keep us going – here is how it looks right now!

Kanban For Wedding

Now all that remains is for all of this to complete “just-in-time” so that we can all get together, eat, drink and be merry! In short, have a ‘just great time’.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! (And now, back to my lamb puffs – which are in the “Marinating In-Progress” queue – still a bit of work left!)

PS: In case you’d like to give Kanban a whirl for your Thanksgiving OR Christmas party planning using SwiftKanban, just give it a try right here. And don’t forget to tell us how it turns out. Of course, you can use it for any other projects you may have planned during the holidays! Nothing like a visual display to impress the spouse 😉

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Mahesh Singh

Mahesh Singh

Mahesh is a NimbleWork co-founder who hasn’t held a steady job for a long time and consequently, has run Product Management, Consulting, Professional Services and now the Marketing functions at NimbleWork. He is a Project Management and Kanban enthusiast and holds the Kanban Coaching Professional (KCP) and Accredited Kanban Trainer (AKT) certifications from Kanban University. Follow Mahesh on Twitter @maheshsingh

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