Manage your Projects effectively through Kanban Board
The use of Kanban as a tool began in physical goods industries such as manufacturing and distribution. To use it in work like software development, it required various adaptations and modifications. Over time, visual signals replaced physical cards. Virtual Kanban systems helped to improve the development processes, the agility of existing software, and the technique received acceptance with the agile software development movement. Now, it is a widely used tool in project management. Almost every sector, from retail to healthcare, uses Kanban Boards now. People find it extremely beneficial for managing their tasks and projects.
Kanban is a Mindset and a Method
Kanban is not just a project tool; it is much more than that. It is a mind-set as it enables you, as a project manager, to choose the right things and make the right decisions at the right time. It helps you focus your attention on the important and necessary tasks. You can easily differentiate between urgent and unwanted tasks. Kanban motivates you to do all the work in your potential so that you do not overburden your workers. It ensures that you and your team do the work in an organized and sequential manner without creating a mess. Focusing on the flow of work to completion becomes a key concept with Kanban. It helps you manage the flow of your project process, which is very important for the successful and smooth completion of the project.
Six-Core Kanban Principles
According to David J. Anderson, there are six core principles associated with Kanban.
- Visualize your work
- Limit work in progress (WIP)
- Manage flow
- Make policies explicit
- Implement feedback loops
- Improve collaboratively, evolve experimentally
Out of these six principles, the first three are very important.
Visualize workflow – Every Kanban consists of a board, which could be in the form of a bulletin board, whiteboard, or an online tool. It contains various columns, which provide relevant information about the project. For instance, the board may have separate columns displaying information about the status of tasks.
The Kanban board organization would be: To Do, Doing, Done. In a physical board, you may use cards or Post-it notes. Moreover, Kanban boards are beneficial even in case of complicated projects. When working on a more complex process, you may also use color-coded cards to sort out information.
With a Kanban tool, all the team members can easily visualize the workflow and see how the work is progressing. You can also identify the loopholes quickly. Workflow visualization is critical to Kanban’s effectiveness, but Kanban experts say that believing that having a board is all it takes is a common pitfall for all.
Limit Work In Process (WIP)- It is a principle that may be contrary to some of our beliefs. However, Kanban believes that less is more. It encourages employees to do tasks within a limit. Do not overburden yourselves. Kanban tool encourages the prioritization of tasks. Too much multitasking may lead to incorrect work. Therefore, to stop your team members from multitasking, you can limit the Work in Progress as per your requirement. You can apply a limit on the total number of tasks that can be in progress at any given time on the board or put individual limits on each stage of the workflow. It will ensure that the team members focus well on their assigned tasks and complete them well.
Manage Flow: One strength of Kanban is that you start where you are, with your existing process. You do not have to make overnight changes in your existing tasks. It helps you continuously improve by creating awareness and encouraging discussion among the team members about evolving the process. It does not require you to make too many big changes all of a sudden because it will only complicate things further.
A Kanban Board is extremely helpful in finding the problem areas in any given process. If tasks appear faster in a Kanban Column and leave slowly, then it indicates that a lot of work might accumulate over time. Therefore, it is advisable to map your workflow to find out the problem areas and quickly make improvements.
Remember: Pull, Don’t Push, the Work
Of course, as a team manager, you want successful and timely completion of your project. Therefore, there is one golden rule that you must always follow. Never, overburden any employee. Respect their potential and distribute tasks accordingly.
A software developer may only code one feature at a time while a technical editor may work on multiple sets of documentation. Such differences may lead to problems and even give rise to friction. Therefore, you must remember the ‘pull’ concept in Kanban. Each member must pull tasks only when they are ready for it. You may add buffer columns on the boards with limited capacity to prevent pushing off tasks onto team members.
Continuous Improvement Is Intrinsic to Kanban Methodology
The best thing about Kanban is that it is constantly improving its model. You can easily track a few metrics to help understand your inefficiencies.
Here is a list of some of them, which Kanban project managers most commonly follow:
- Cycle Time or Lead Time: This indicates the time required for a task or item to move completely through the process.
- Throughput: This indicates the number of items, which the workers can complete in a specific timeframe.
- Due Date Performance: This indicates the status of an item, whether it is behind or ahead of scheduled completion.
- Blockages: This indicates the number of logjams and their duration.
- Quality: This provides information about the errors or defects in a time-period.
For instance, you may create a chart every day with details about the tasks in different columns. You can classify your tasks as per your requirements. Based on this information, you can easily get a good idea about the status of your project and figure out if you are going as per schedule or not.
Advantages of Kanban for Project Managers
Kanban tools are a blessing for project managers in many ways. It is safe to say that Project managers are increasingly using Kanban because of its success in overcoming some shortcomings of other frameworks. It is beneficial in scaling projects to enterprise-level and coordinating multiple teams.
Some of the major benefits of Kanban according to project managers are-
- Higher efficiency
- Reduced waste
- Better communication
- Faster problem solving
- Easy to implement
- Improved quality
How to Implement Kanban?
Now that you have read so much about Kanban, do you feel like implanting it in your organization? If you are genuinely interested in Kanban, here is all that you need to get started:
- A board – physical or web-based
- Buy-in from senior leadership
- Training in Kanban techniques or a coach
- Commitment from project participants
Moreover, it is crucial to learn the fundamentals of Kanban. Before you begin using Kanban in your organization, you must have thorough knowledge about it. You must attend workshops and training, which will help you use the tool efficiently. According to coach and trainer Michael Alexander of SolutionsIQ, “Training is a must, and it should be experiential, which means that it should be more workshop and exercises, fewer slides and lecture.”
Common Pitfalls in Kanban Implementation
Since it is something new, you cannot ace it all at once. You will make mistakes and face some problems here and there. A prevalent mistake is trying to make many changes at once, which flies in the face of Kanban’s evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach. You must go slow and take your own time. Another common error is a lack of priorities. It is important to prioritize tasks. Otherwise, instead of making tasks simpler, you will stall your work. Grumbaugh said, “In short, if you start the work, you should finish the work before moving on to the next priority.” Moreover, beginners often find it difficult and juggle between current tasks and future tasks.
Kanban System Failures
It is evident that at some point or the other, you will encounter some failures while working with a Kanban Tool. However, do not feel discouraged; it is not the end of your project. You can overcome the challenges and prevent failures. According to Anderson of LeanKanban, one of Kanban’s leading authorities and creator of the Kanban Method used in project management, there are two main reasons why project managers fail with Kanban.
- Project managers generally try to introduce the framework to an organization, which may not be ready for pull methods. It may happen with a coach who wants to demonstrate his or her skill and move too quickly. Such speed may not be suitable for the team members.
- Due to a lack of knowledge about the Kanban tool, it may fail to improve despite its implementation.