What Is A Kanban Board And How Does It Work?

Kanban Board : Project management tool

A Kanban Board is an agile project management tool that helps to visualize work, check work in progress and boost efficiency. The first three general practices of kanban are It visualizes the work of the development team (the features and user stories), It captures WIP limits for development steps: the circled values below the column headings that limit the number of work items under that step, It documents policies, also known as done rules,[9] inside blue rectangles under some of the development steps.

5 Best Kanban Boards For Effective Project Management

Taiichi Ohno an industrial engineer at Toyota developed Kanban to prompt the action needed to keep a process flowing. One of the main goals of kanban is to limit the buildup of excess inventory at any point on the production line. The word 'Kanban' has its origin in both Hiragana (Japanese language) and Kanji (Chinese language). In Hiragana, it means a 'Signal card' while in Kanji it means a 'Sign' or 'Large visual board'.

Using the Kanban Board In Simple Steps

  • Kanban board has vertical lanes representing steps in a process.
  • It has cards (similar to sticky notes) representing work items.
  • These cards can move along the process from left to right.
  • The possibilities with Kanban Boards are endless. Any individual or team can always unleash new ways to maximize the kanban efficiency.
  • You can also add Vertical lanes to represent specific steps in the process.
  • Horizontal swimlanes can be added to represent workflows that happen simultaneously.
  • Card details such as card types and custom icons can be used to communicate work type, work status, or other information important to the team
  • Process policies can also be implemented to explicitly define how cards move through the board
  • WIP limits can be implemented to proactively restrict how much work is in process at any given time

Measuring efficiency with Kanban is easy

In Kanban, Flow Efficiency helps you measure the actual time you have spent on a work item. So, the efficiency is calculated based on the actual work time measured against the total wait time.

so, Flow efficiency = work time / ( work time + wait time )

Most teams' have a flow efficiency of between 5% to 15%. The lowest recorded was around 2%; the maximum, after much effort, was about 40%.

The two Kanban metrics that best measure your team performance are cycle times (how fast work gets done) and throughput (how much work is delivered). These metrics are the ones to watch to make sure you are delivering results to your customers! Cycle time, throughput, and WIP are connected by Little's Law.

Things to remember for effective application of Kanban

Toyota has six rules for the effective application of Kanban:

  • 1) Never pass on defective products;
  • 2) Take only what is needed;
  • 3) Produce the exact quantity required;
  • 4) Level the production;
  • 5) Fine-tune production, and
  • 6) Stabilise and rationalize the process.
  • keep it simple is the first and the most important rule for kanban methodology. It is used to keep workflow and management simple. So keeping the Kanban process itself simple is the key.

    Advantages of Using Kanban

    Managing your projects by using a Kanban board has numerous benefits for Project Managers (PM), team members, and the whole organization. There are many advantages to using the Kanban system as a way to manage work, including

    Better visibility

    A Kanban board provides visual cues which allow teammates to see the progress of a project. By making the workflow visible in this way, teams can quickly see the length of time a task takes and who is working on what.

    Increased productivity

    Kanban benefits your productivity by shifting the focus from starting work to finishing work. In Kanban, cycle time and throughput are the key productivity metrics. Cycle time measures how long it takes for a task to pass through your process.

    Improved efficiency

    Kanban is a method applied across all fields of work to help teams drive down costs and become more efficient by visualizing and improving workflows. Kanban gives you the flexibility to build sustainable competitive advantage and empower your team to accomplish more, faster.

    Workload Reduction

    From organizing the priorities of the day with daily Standup Meetings to deciding the direction of the business in Strategic Reviews, all team members are constantly being encouraged to work together and give their opinion on how to improve current processes.

    Advancement of the Corporate Culture

    Most project managers use physical Kanban boards because they are very easy to set up and promote face-to-face collaboration. The use of physical boards is limited when teams get larger and workflows get more complex. Therefore, project managers shift from the use of physical boards to digital Kanban boards.

    Increased Accessibility to Information

    The Kanban board system is an efficient way to develop organizational knowledge. The Kanban board system collects and processes data from numerous staff members. This is advantageous for personnel who may lack a working knowledge of a more complicated approach.

    Flexibility and Responsiveness

    Kanban is based on the 'just-in-time' practice, which makes it flexible to adapt to market changes. Additionally, it focuses on the tasks in progress and adds more work from the top of the Backlog to the board only after the current work is completed.

    Best Uses For Kanban

    Kanban boards are especially popular among teams who practice Lean and Agile because they enable the kind of visibility and transparency necessary to achieve business agility. Any team that follows a repeatable process can use Kanban boards to: Clarify their process. Improve their workflow. Kanban helps visualize your work, limit work-in-progress (WIP) and quickly move work from "Doing" to "Done." Kanban is great for teams that have lots of incoming requests that vary in priority and size. Whereas scrum processes require high control over what is in scope, kanban lets you go with the flow.

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