8 Ways a Kanban Board Helps You Manage Project Work
In today’s modern society, productivity is becoming more and more necessary for success. Companies that can streamline their workflow with a Kanban Board and get more stuff done in less time will outshine and outmaneuver the competition every time.
But while efficiency is highly valued, how can you ensure that your team is working at their best? While there are plenty of different ways to become more organized and streamlined, one of the simplest and most effective methods is called Kanban. If you aren’t familiar with it, don’t worry, we’ll go over everything you need to know.
What is the Kanban Method?
This concept began back in the 1940’s in Japan when Toyota factories were trying to become much more efficient on the production line. To achieve a smoother workflow, they started using color-coded cards (kanban translates to “visual signal”) to show when things were done, what was needed next, and where demand was greatest.
By creating a visual template, the factory was able to quickly identify bottlenecks in production and help smooth out any problems so that the flow was much more even. At its core, Kanban is more focused on flow than anything else. The point is to move as much as you can into the “done” column as possible without overworking your team.
While the system was implemented in a factory, Kanban is highly useful for any business that wants to increase productivity. Because we humans are visual creatures, it’s much more beneficial to us to use a system like this, rather than something as trite as to-do lists.
But how can Kanban be implemented? With a Kanban board, of course.
What is a Kanban Board?
Simply put, this is the visual representation of your workflow. Using cards, you will move tasks from “to-do” to “done” much quicker and much more efficiently. The best part about using a Kanban board is that you can customize however you want. To help you get a better understanding, let’s look a sample board.
|Learn about Kanban||Reading about Kanban||Made Kanban Board|
As you can see, it can be a really simple setup, or you can change it as you see fit to match whatever processes are involved in your current workflow.
Again, the whole point of Kanban is to move things through to the “done” column as quickly as possible, and the way you do that is by identifying bottlenecks and problem areas. The best way to ensure an ideal flow of tasks is to avoid overloading any particular part. Using Kanban, if backups do occur, they are noticed immediately because there will be more cards in one column than in another.
Benefits of Using a Kanban Board
By now, you should already be trying to figure out whether Kanban can work for you, and the simple answer is “yes.” Regardless of the type of work you’re doing, using a Kanban board will help you optimize your workflow and help you get more stuff done. For the most part, people will constantly start new tasks but rarely finish them. The benefit of using a visual system like this is that it trains your brain to start completing projects to avoid backlogs.
With that all in mind, here are the top eight benefits of using a Kanban board for your team.
No matter how many steps are involved in your workflow, Kanban can be customized to match all of them. Where this system really shines is in group projects such as software development, as it enables you to parcel out tasks and see where they are on the production line.
To make the best use out of your Kanban board, you will want to color-code your cards (such as red=priority) and then tag whoever is working on it.
Whether you need six, twelve, or three columns, it’s easy to set up a Kanban board, and best of all you can do it with your current system, without having to tailor your workflow to match the board.
As we mentioned, the goal of Kanban is to optimize your workflow, which means that you are in a state of constant improvement, as well as a state of constant completion. Because the system emphasizes achievement over inception, you will notice that productivity will go up shortly after implementing the Kanban Method.
At first, you will notice bottlenecks, but because you will be able to spot them immediately, you can ease the burden and make sure that no one is being overloaded, thereby ensuring that the flow continues smoothly.
Less Wasted Work and Time
For larger companies, a lot of time is spent with meetings and progress reports so that everyone can be on the same page. With a centralized Kanban board (digital or physical), all team members and supervisors can see how the work is flowing, as well as see who is doing what on the board. This way, you don’t have to spend any time getting people up to speed, as they can check everything at their leisure.
Also, as soon as a task is moved to another column, if that means that someone else takes over the project at that point, he or she can quickly see when it happens, thereby ensuring that there are no communication errors or lag time between handing off sections of the work.
No matter how well things were flowing before, odds are that using a Kanban board will make things much more effective. That means that, overall, you should notice an increase in your productivity, which will allow you to get more work done and keep the flow going.
For example, if a project used to take three weeks to complete, using the Kanban Method you could reduce the time to two weeks, enabling you to get more projects done in the same amount of time.
Along with productivity, efficiency will also go through the roof. No longer will team members have to wait for updates or check in to see what they should be doing. Now, they can see everything working in real time, even when updates occur.
Another way that efficiency is improved is that everyone has the ability to update the board as they complete tasks, thus making the team work faster overall. Instead of waiting for someone else to update their progress, team members can move tasks between columns and then move onto the next item in their queue.
All of this should also help you and your team get laser focused within a quick amount of time. Because you can see where everything is visually, you aren’t left wondering what needs to be done or what you have to do. Also, because the system emphasizes finishing over starting, it will push team members to complete tasks much faster.
Spot Bottlenecks and Slowdowns
The most noticeable thing about Kanban boards is that they will instantly show you where work is slowing down. To even make things more efficient, you can have a rule that says that if there are more than X amount of cards in a certain column, immediate action has to be taken. Fortunately, you won’t have to wait very long to see if that happens, which means that you can refocus your attention and ensure that no team member is being overloaded with work.
Balance Between Over and Under Planning
When it comes to being efficient, some systems require an intricate setup which can take a lot of time to implement. The best part about Kanban is that it doesn’t take much time at all, but the rewards are instantaneous. This way, you are adding some much-needed organization to your work planning, but not doing it in such a way that you have to change the way that you operate.
To make things easiest on your team, start by creating a Kanban board based on your current workflow, and then make incremental changes as you notice weak points.
Kanban Boards: Digital or Physical?
When we’re talking about a Kanban board, most of you are probably thinking of a whiteboard with sticky notes on it. That can be a great tool, provided that your whole team works in the same place. The benefits of using a physical board are that it is super easy to implement and everyone can see it and refer to it at once. Also, some people like the low-tech approach and the tactile sensation of moving a piece of paper, rather than dragging something with a mouse.
For larger teams or remote units, however, it’s impossible to use a physical board because everyone is not together. In that case, you will have to use software that allows you to implement Kanban agile project planning digitally.
The benefits of using a digital board are that you can scale it up as needed, and add more functionality to it. For example, you can enable email contact, write code to prevent overloading someone (such as “no more than three tasks per column”), and any other features that will help you implement the system better. Also, supervisors and managers can log in remotely to see how the work is flowing and contact team members as soon as a problem arises.
So, when it comes to maximizing productivity, the Kanban Method can be a great help to you and your team. Whether you are trying to increase efficiency or hoping to get more projects done faster, this system will enable you to adjust and improve on a constant basis, until you are as productive as you possibly can be. Check out PlanHammer’s browser based online kanban boards here.