Kanban is a Japanese word that means “visual signal”, or “card”. It is a visual way to manage the workflow as it moves through the process. Kanban works in a simpler way, you must know where you are so you can go to your desired destination.
Kanban is a popular project management tool that uses an agile framework for software development. The main benefits of using Kanban are transparency and communication for the whole team about what is overdue and what items need to be work on. The main goal of Kanban is to find out the bottlenecks in the process so work can flow through at an optimal speed.
Kanban tells you what to do when to do and how much to do.
A brief history of Kanban
Kanban first developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer of Toyota automotive in Japan. The main reason to develop the kanban was that Toyota automotive lagged behind in productivity and efficiency to its American counterparts. With the adoption of Kanban, Toyota achieved a flexible and efficient just-in-time production control system that increased its productivity and product output.
All the tasks are represented visually on the Kanban board to check the status of each piece of work at any time. Kanban helps to visualize the work, increases the work efficiency. Kanban uses multiple column-like structures and in those columns, there is a card. Each card represents a task that needs to be work on. Kanban board makes your work visible so you can show it to others and keep everyone on the same page.
Types of a Kanban board
There are two types of Kanban board. Physical board and Digital Board.
This is a simple board that is divided into 3–5 vertical columns. The team place sticky notes on each column and each sticky notes represent a task. These sticky notes can be moved through the columns to demonstrate the status of the workflow.
The advantage of this board is that it is always visible and very easy to set up. It is a very efficient way to communicate with the team. However, this is not ideal for remote teams.
Digital Kanban boards allow remote teams to use Kanban. The most popular tool is Trello that is a very simple way to make a Kanban board. In just a few clicks you will be able to set up a Kanban board that would be viewed and managed by the entire team.
To Do: This column lists the tasks that are not yet started. (aka “backlog”)
Doing: Consists of the tasks that are in progress.
Done: Consists of the tasks that are completed.
For example, you might create a board. There are vertical columns named as “To do”, “Doing”, and “Done”. Each task in these columns will be organized as a card. These cards can move across in “Doing” if you are currently working on them and once they are completed can be moved to “Done”.It’s just a simple drag and drop. The advantage of digital Kanban is that they are easy to set up and can be easily shared with remote teams to track the project progress.
- Start with what you know - Kanban should be applied to existing workflow and job responsibilities. Any change can be applied gradually.
- Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change - Make small incremental changes that will have the least resistance throughout the teams.
- Encourage acts of leadership at every level - People at all levels in the organization can provide ideas and continuously improve the product and services.
Kanban Best Practices
- Visualize - Keep a visual model of your work process so you can observe the workflow. This workflow helps you to avoid bottlenecks and queues.
- Limit work in progress - By clearly defining the work in progress limits can improve delivery and can reduce delay in delivery.
- Manage flow - A consistent workflow is essential for maximizing the delivery time. It should also provide an indicator for future bottlenecks.
- Make policies explicit - Teams decide the standards for the process definition. For example, by making the team’s Definition of Done for each work stage explicit, the team can avoid the waste of time and effort.
- Create opportunities for feedback - Teams set up weekly or monthly to find out the area of improvement.
- Improve collaboratively, evolve experimentally. By determining how to improve the continuous flow of delivery.
So Why Kanban works
There are a lot of techniques out there to project management and continuous improvement. Kanban stands on top of all of them because it gives us a visual sense of where we stand. A picture is worth a thousand words for scientific reasons. The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. Visual information comprises 90 percent of the data that comes to our brain.
In conclusion, Kanban helps to refine the process and maximizing the value, it also can help to reduce waste.