Kanban – A small introduction to project management with Kanban

More organisation and better results for your private life and for large corporations? You probably think there aren’t many overlaps in recommended methods and tools for achieving this goal. But there are! Agile methods are currently on everyone’s mouth. Kanban is one of them and is successfully used by famous role models such as Microsoft and Toyota, but can also help individuals to succeed more in their private lives. If you want to learn more about this method, which enables a better and more productive workflow, we’ve summarized the most important things for you.

What is Kanban and how does it work?

Kanban is a method of agile project management, just like Scrum, which you may already know. Kanban was developed by Toyota in Japan in 1947. At Toyota, Kanban was used to always have the optimal stock of materials for production and to request supplies only when the stock is almost exhausted. You use Kanban successfully to implement your Just in Time strategy and enable lean production. Toyota’s method served as a model for many other production companies. The software industry later successfully discovered and developed this method for itself to enable lean development and optimal workflow. Kanban has become increasingly popular recently and is being successfully implemented in various industries and company sizes.

Roughly translated, the word kanban means as much as a signal card, which this method describes well. Workflows become more flexible with Kanban because they are not considered a single big task, but are divided into many small subtasks that can be completed step by step. Kanban aims to improve the quality of the final result by avoiding multitasking and always providing an overview for everyone.

On the Kanban board, the work steps are visually displayed. The board is visible to all employees in the team.

A big advantage of Kanban is that it can be easily integrated into existing processes and usually does not have to be completely new workflows. Each individual task is written down on a new Colored Card, which can be a Post It or something like that. The Board should be comprehensible to all and kept tidy.

The board is divided into at least three columns, the backlog column, the work in Progress column,possibly the testing/review column,

and finally the Done column. In the backlog, all tasks that are still on hold and will be completed at a later time are recorded. In the Work in Progress column, all tasks that are in progress at the moment are glued. This column can also be divided into additional columns as needed, if a task typically needs to go through several steps for you until it is actually done. The testing or reviews column can keep completed tasks that are just waiting for release. When a task is finally completed, it moves to the Done column. Thus, the tasks migrate from column to column during the course of the project until they have all passed through and arrived in the Done column.

You can make the priority of the individual tasks clear by Swimlanes. For example, you can insert a fastlane for tasks that need to be done urgently and quickly. Tasks that require a lot of time can be inserted below. These areas are simply divided by horizontal lines. The priority of tasks should best be carried out jointly.

Kanban does not prohibit changes in the course of the year, nor does it require them. This allows you to customize the method flexibly and as needed if you or your colleagues notice a way to improve it over the course of the process.

What should I consider when implementing Kanban?

We have already described the process of this ProjectManagement method to you. Here we give you a few more tips for the implementation in practice and help you to find out if Kanban makes any sense for you.

The Kanban board can be mounted on a large wall, whiteboard or digitally. If you want to use it digitally, make sure that it is still easy and always visible to all team members. There are also various apps for agile project management that will help you with this.

The columns should of course be arranged according to the order of the workflows, i.e. the backlog column should be on the far left of the kanban board, then the columns for the respective work step and then the done column on the far right.

Multitasking is an absolute no go at Kanban. Instead of wanting to do everything at the same time and getting bogged down, every single step is completed in order to be able to devote oneday to the next.

Limiting the subtasks in each column is extremely important as a result. If you let the number of subtasks in each column run free, each card in the Work will soon be in progress column. However, this must be avoided at all costs, as Kanban wants to promote the focus on the completion of the individual subtasks. Therefore, the limitation is absolutely necessary. As soon as a subtask leaves the column and moves further to the right on the Kanban Board, the team can start a new task card.

Exchange among colleagues, constant feedback and open response when there are suggestions for improvement are also important prerequisites for the success of the Kanban method. Not only the end result, but also the workflow leading there should be constantly improved. It is therefore important that you ensure an appropriate corporate culture and that employees who submit proposals show the appropriate appreciation.

Kanban can of course also be used together with other agile methods and thus be combined e.g. with scrum.

Like everything, Kanban has both advantages and disadvantages. You should be aware of the advantages, such as transparency, continuous optimization, a continuous workflow and easy implementation. The disadvantages can also be derived from the process of the method. If your work cannot be divided into individual, smaller sub-steps, the method makes little sense. You and your team members also need to be relatively flexible and be able to take part in the sub-steps. Because half of the team waits until task cards have arrived in the testing/review column and can’t get involved beforehand, there is too much idleness. In addition, if there is no proper management or control body, it is difficult to actually follow necessary procedures, such as limiting and meeting schedules. In addition to the team members working on the task, a higher-level and independent body is usually needed.

Conclusion

If you and your team like to get bogged down and usually have countless tasks in progress at the same time, without noticeable progress, you should definitely try the Kanban method. It does not require great preparation or restructuring, but can be integrated into your existing workflows to improve it. There are no fixed schedules or rules for implementing Kanban, so it is suitable for both individuals and large corporations. As with many agile methods, the corporate culture should be as open as possible in order to achieve the best possible results. Conversely, the implementation of modern project management methods can also open up the corporate culture. If you have weighed up the pros and cons of Kanban and decided that this method suits you well, you can start implementing it quickly and easily.

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