Get Organized with Kanban Method Basics

Ever feel overwhelmed by your to-do list? The Kanban method might help.

Kanban comes from the Japanese word that translates into ‘visual signal,’ to convert work tasks into a visual format and limit the number of tasks concurrently being worked on while increasing transparency and speed.

Kanban takes a group-focused approach and encourages everyone on the team to be a leader. Here’s how it works.

Kanban Boards

Kanban boards are the format of which kanban is worked off.

These boards can be virtual or physical, and they consist of columns that break the workload up into sections. For example, you can have to-do, in-progress, and done columns. 

Within the columns, there are cards. The cards represent each work item. They move from column to column, left to right, beginning from the backlog (a queue of work to be done) to the finished stage.  

Kanban boards are designed to help limit work in progress, which helps decrease lead time.

Kanban Cards

Kanban cards provide all the necessary information, including a title, description, owner, due date, time logged, and workflow stage.

The history and information are updated as the card progresses through the workflow, increasing transparency. 

The cards (or tasks to complete) can generate from customer-based feedback or from within the company at meetings. All team members should be empowered to create a card. 

The time it takes to complete each card should be calculated. You don’t want a card to resemble every minute task, but you also don’t want the card to take two weeks to complete. The optimal time for each card is about one day or 6-8 hours. 

Kanban Work In Progress Limits

By enforcing work in progress limits, thereby limiting the amount of work your team can do at once, you’ll decrease your lead time.

This is because multitasking is inefficient, and time is wasted by switching between various projects. Enforcing work in progress limits helps foster a healthy workplace because your employees won’t be overwhelmed. Quality will increase because your employees can focus on one to two tasks at a time. Customers will be happy because of the high quality. 

Work in progress limits helps your team members say no, which may be challenging for some. When there isn’t any space on the kanban board to take on more work, saying no becomes easier, and an explanation backs it up. 

The recommended work in progress limit for your entire kanban board, according to Agile Coach Max Rehkopf, should be your team size (the number of people contributing on the kanban board) multiplied by one and a half or two. The recommended work in progress limit for each column is the number of people that look after each column multiplied by two. 

Pinpoint Bottlenecks

Kanban boards help you pinpoint bottleneck points in the workflow.

Bottleneck effects often arise from projects waiting on those with unique skill sets held by only a few team members. To help decrease bottlenecks, prioritize a sharing of skill sets. In this case, if there is a backup in the workflow, other team members can jump in to help. 

Getting Started

When first incorporating a kanban board into your workplace, it’s important to remember it’s not meant to revolutionize the workplace but rather provide a methodology to the current roles and responsibilities. 

Begin with a physical kanban board in a prominent location. Use sharpies, pens, sticky notes, etc., to put it together. This kanban board will serve as a conversation starter regarding how you work, write cards, and move through your work. These conversations lead to changes in the workflow. Once the company and employees understand the workflow, upgrade to a digital platform like Jira or Trello. This is helpful because you can share the workflow with people outside of your location. 

Kanban is a helpful visualization tool to help speed up the workflow process at your business by decreasing work in progress and providing a method to your work. Need to organize your print marketing? We can help!

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