Sometimes increasing efficiency requires an expensive fix or an elaborate re-engineering of processes. Sometimes it’s about gaining clarity of thought and working smarter.
That’s where the Kanban process comes in. Kanban is a Japanese word that means signboard. It’s also an emerging methodology that is gaining ground in many industries. It’s a system that shows what to do next. When facing an overwhelming task, Kanban principles can help take the steps forward and move ahead.
Kanban principles might ostensibly seem simple, offering nothing new. But there’s more to them than meets the eye. Let’s inspect what is Kanban, the Kanban board, the process and how it can help to manage projects big and small.
What Is Kanban?
Kanban project management is inspired by the lean manufacturing principles of Toyota Motor Corporation. The lean methodology relies on the minimum possible work-in-progress (WIP) levels to benefit from short cycle times and low inventories. Kanban extends this concept to software development, project management, and similar tasks. In his book Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change For Your Technology Business, David Anderson adapted the techniques to suit the non-manufacturing space.
Kanban allows users to prioritize based on their needs and current demands while also maintaining good communication between team members. Now that we understand what is Kanban, let’s look at how it can be integrated into any system.
What Is A Kanban Board?
At the heart of the Kanban process is the Kanban board. Tasks are arranged into different columns of the Kanban board, making it easier to prioritize.
The Kanban board has several columns, each identified by a different color used to show how far along that work item is. This isn’t a static list of tasks; it’s an evolving process that changes as the work increments.
In each column, there are a set of cards. The cards in the column represent work items. Cards can be moved to any column, and columns can be rearranged as needed, but every card must be represented in at least one column.
The purpose is to keep the work moving forward with as little downtime as possible. With this system, you’ll never have too much or too little work on any one column at once, so it will be easy to allocate more time if necessary.
Columns usually include:
Tasks that the team must do.
Work In Progress
A work-in-progress (WIP) is what needs to be done now, so it needs to be prioritized and assigned to one of the team members. Kanban revolves around the concept of WIP management. Keeping the list of WIP items short is one of the crucial steps in Kanban process.
Once we have completed an action, it can be marked as done and moved to the board. This way, it is easily visible for all stakeholders to see.
The steps in Kanban process are designed so all tasks get done, which helps increase productivity and efficiency in teams. By focusing only on what’s important, you’ll be able to get more done each day with less time spent doing repetitive tasks.
Kanban Methodology: Steps And Process
The traditional project management approach is to set out detailed plans for the project before work begins. In Kanban project management, it’s necessary to allocate time for planning ahead in a detailed way.
In the simplest terms, the Kanban process follows the following steps:
Start by creating a new column on the Kanban board.
Label this column as ‘To Do’.
Add actions to this list.
Decide how long each task should take.
When starting on a new To-Do item, pull it into the WIP column on the board.
Each time a To-Do item is completed, move it over to the ‘Done’ column.
Decide when you are ready to move on to the next To-Do task.
Review any tasks that may have been left out.
When all tasks are completed, move on to the next step in your project plan.
Repeat this process over and over until your project is complete.
Kanban cards can be moved from one column to the next, but the decision to move the card must be justified and communicated to each team member.
One of the important steps in Kanban process is to take the time to think about which pieces need to be done and how these pieces should be prioritized. Then, set up the work in progress (WIP) system you will use. The goal is to ensure that there are no more than three WIP items at any given time.
The Different Parts Of A Kanban Board
In Kanban project management, there are several key components to include. Let’s break them down:
There should be visual signals on the board that make it clear whether a task has been completed. You can use various colors and icons to signify the status of your tasks. The visual signals help other people read and understand your work better, and they help to make each step in the project more transparent.
The segment is a visual grouping of tasks that can group similar types of tasks together. This will help to stay organized too.
The information radiator comprises all the information needed for each task that’s listed on the board.
The commitment point is the end date for each task on the board. For example, if a software project has three quick tasks to be completed in a time period, and each task has a set duration of three days, then each task would have a commitment date of three days and would be completed within that time period.
The delivery point is the initial deadline for each task on the board. The delivery point tells the other team members when they have to produce results. In order to deliver a set of features, a team will have to finish all the tasks assigned on the board within a certain time period.
The revision point allows you to see how much your project has changed since last week or since last month.
The Kanban methodology allows for tracking how much work has been done and thus measuring progress towards your goal.
The Advantages Of The Kanban Process
The Kanban methodology advantages and disadvantages are important to understand. Here are the key points:
The Kanban board represents a single view of the project, which means everyone clearly understands what is happening at all times. We can use the board as a planning tool to move from one step to another
By planning your work in advance, each task will have a clear status and deadlines before you work on them
If you’re in a project management team, the Kanban board offers a clear view of how each task is being managed. This helps managers and stakeholders know exactly where they are in the process and when they might have to wait for a task to be completed
It’s easy to get new members on board with what needs to be done. When a new developer is hired, simply put a task on the board for them to work on
The Kanban methodology is very easy to use. It only requires the users to update their progress manually for each task. This means there’s no need for training
The Kanban methodology is great for agile projects because they help prioritize work efficiently while keeping all stakeholders informed of long-term goals and objectives
With a Kanban board, we measure work in small increments of time. The duration of each task can be measured on a daily or weekly basis
Using a Kanban board, it’s easier to measure how much work each step takes and whether a developer can complete a task in a single day or rather needs several days
A Kanban board will help improve the overall efficiency of a team’s work.
There are many applications for Kanban principles and thus there are also many Kanban examples. Here are some:
In software development, we can use Kanban for tracking tasks. Having the team complete one task before moving on to the next allows for focusing on a single item at a time, improving workflow and streamlining efforts
We can use kanban to monitor the status of an application. The software developer or analyst can use a Kanban board to ensure they’re fully developing code according to requirements
There are Kanban examples from other domains as well. For example, it can keep track of maintenance tasks. In a factory, it might be used to keep an expensive piece of machinery running smoothly. A Kanban board helps see what is still outstanding and may even assign responsibility for the job
Solopreneurs can benefit from using kanban too. Instead of being overwhelmed by an endless array of tasks, they can set up a Kanban board to manage their workflow and keep them on track with their goals
To find out what is Kanban and how such project management tools can benefit an organization, Harappa’s Executing Solutions program is here to help. It will teach aspiring and early career managers how to delegate responsibility, monitor progress and navigate crises. It equips learners with
Kanban project management is inspired by the lean manufacturing principles of Toyota Motor Corporation. Learn more about Kanban methodology from Harappa to keep the work moving forward with as little downtime as possible.
the tools and frameworks to hit the ground running in any situation.
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