November 20, 2019

Driving Change With The Kanban Methodology

Kanban Methodology

Kanban is a lean method primarily for visual management, and this means that it allows teams to bypass unnecessary processes and to see the ‘bigger picture’ easily. For project managers, Kanban methodology is a driving force that is particularly useful when working project management?


Driving Change With The Kanban Methodology
Driving Change With The Kanban Methodology

How Does Kanban Drive Change?

  • In Agile teams, projects normally include a variety of tasks that need to be completed. This is normal and to be expected. However, when teams are faced with too many different challenges and have to multi-task constantly, projects can become increasingly complex and work can take longer. This is where Kanban methodology truly shines; it limits the number of tasks that your team has to complete at any given time, and this significantly improves the efficiency of the ‘work-in-progress’ cycle. 
  • For example, let’s say your team has ten tasks that they need to complete before a deadline. With other methods, new tasks could be added on almost constantly as the need arises. This forces a team to spread their concentration and effort too thin to cover all of the work. With Kanban methodology, the only time a new task can be added is when another has been completed and new space has opened up – meaning no nasty surprises for project managers or their team. Work moves along cyclically, reducing bottlenecks and allowing everyone to stay productive. 
  • With Kanban methodology, you don’t have to migrate from your existing setup or process. Whatever workflow you currently have in place utilize Kanban directly. It can slot into your existing way of working seamlessly and doesn’t require any specifics to get set up. Kanban methodology means that improvements can be made gradually, over time, and the benefits will become apparent in this way. For project managers this means no disruption to teams or workflows – you don’t need to sacrifice efficiency with this method. 

How Do I Implement A Kanban Board? 

Kanban Board
Kanban Board
  • The main point of a Kanban board is for visual signals – every project has tasks and goals that need to be written onto cards. This allows everyone from developers to project managers to stakeholders to see who is working on what, and when. Usually, a card will contain one item, for example, a user story. This helps to keep things clear and easy to digest.
  • At its most basic (but not to be considered less sophisticated) the Kanban board can have three columns – “To Do,” “In Progress,” and “Done.” These collate to form your teams’ workflow – and you can add or remove columns as needed. Your team can then move the cards we just discussed into these columns as needed – it really is that easy to keep track of your progress.
  • Work-In-Progress limits need to be set out, as previously mentioned. Let’s say that you decide your “To-Do” column can only ever have 5 cards in at one time – stick to it. It sounds obvious but it can be incredibly tempting to try and squeeze in just one more task. If you do, however, you’re no longer using Kanban methodology. Trust in the process and soon enough another task will be completed, leaving room for the extra task that’s suddenly appeared.
  • Sometimes, teams decide to add a column on their Kanban board for a backlog. This can be a great way to get ideas up and running. When the team is ready, this idea can be picked up immediately and work can begin. This column can include any ideas for a project, including ‘nice-to-haves’ – it can be incredibly motivating for teams to see the nice extras they could implement at a glance if they finish their work before a deadline.
  • Finally, let’s talk about the endpoint or delivery point. This phase comes at the end of a team’s workflow. Usually, if the client or customer has their hands on the product then you can safely assume you have reached this milestone. Teams should try to get cards from the beginning of the board to this column as quickly as they can without sacrificing quality; again – gradual changes and gradual benefits. 

Remember, there are multiple ways to create Kanban boards. You can drive change as long as you remember the key principles – visual representation and limiting the number of tasks. You can also use physical boards or digital boards. These are great for when teams are just beginning to adopt the Kanban approach. It can be easier to learn and make required changes by simply removing a sticky-note from a whiteboard than having to edit unfamiliar digital tools. 

Getting Started


In order to truly reap all the benefits that Kanban methodology has to offer, project managers need to meet these requirements:

  • Have an awareness and a clear understanding of what is already in place. This means current roles, relationships, and processes. These should be respected, and as already mentioned Kanban doesn’t require disruption to existing workflows. 
  • Kanban is a process – not a miracle. Project managers should be committed to seeing through any ‘teething problems’ and continuously striving for gradual improvement. Change here is evolutionary, not overnight. 
  • Allow and actively encourage leadership behavior from everyone in the team at every level. If a colleague has finished a task and moved a card to ‘Done’ then there should be nothing stopping them from choosing a new task to work on autonomously. 

Conclusion

One of the great benefits of the Kanban methodology is that it fosters a team spirit. Get together and decide amongst yourselves how you want to implement this method. What columns do you want? What limit of cards do you think would be appropriate to assign to each column? Will you produce new cards during a weekly meeting? Utilize the expertise of your team to slowly improve and refine the process. As time goes on, everyone will learn together what works and what doesn’t – and that’s the Kanban way – working together. 

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