Kanban is a project management framework used to monitor the progress of every task and manage it effectively. It helps you organize your work and deliver it to different teams. Kanban boards allow you efficiently manage complex tasks and projects.
In this article, we’ll unveil how kanban works and how to implement it. We’ll also review the advantages, disadvantages, and principles.
How does kanban work?
When your company’s team decides to use kanban for their project management, the information about all work is stored within a kanban board. This board is a visualization of the tasks your company departments need to accomplish. It sets the direction of actions for your team members. With the kanban board tool, you can track the progress of each task and access them from different locales. Kanban, as a presentation of agile software development, ensures seamless collaboration between team members.
Every kanban board consists of three main columns: “To Do,” “In Progress,” and “Done.” The workflow might change depending on your team. It can be modified based on your team’s size, goals, and structure. The Kanban system is necessary to complete a specific project for your company. With kanban, you can ensure that all your team members’ actions are transparent, right, and relevant. As a result, they bring you towards the achievement of your objectives. Kanban board is the source of information for different employees. They can monitor the progress, meet the deadlines, and make some alterations for project success.
Kanban methodology provides teams with real-time communication. As a result, they can instantly identify problems and eliminate them. The efficiency and speed of project completion will increase.
Now that you know how kanban works, it’s time to proceed to the pros and cons. This way, you’ll be aware of the benefits and drawbacks this framework can bring to your business.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Kanban
Like many others, this workflow management method has both advantages and disadvantages. In this section, we’ll unveil these points so that you can consider whether it’s worth implementing.
- ensure collaboration between team members;
- efficiently manage tasks;
- meet project deadlines;
- complete projects successfully;
- focus on the team efficiency;
- encourage adaptability;
- initiate improvements;
- eliminate problems;
- speed up the completion of tasks;
- track the project progress;
- improve management;
- ensure flexibility;
- reduce time cycle.
However, kanban has disadvantages as well. The project management framework
- can’t operate autonomously;
- has no timeframes for each phase;
- doesn't fit the environment with short production processes.
Now that you know the pros and cons, it’s time to explore kanban principles.
In this section, we’ll review four main fundamentals of this project management framework.
- Create a visualization of your workflow. Whether you develop a digital or physical kanban board, you should visualize all your work on it. Add cards of multiple colors to represent user stories. If you don’t plan to design a complex board, consider having two main statuses for your tasks: “To Do” and “Done.” Assign people responsible for the tasks to track their performance. After, align the cards with the columns that suit their statuses.
- Set a specific number of tasks with an “In Progress” status. Think of the limitations on the number of cards with a specific status. You should determine how many cards can be placed in a certain column for a given time. This way, you'll make sure that your team completes tasks one by one without complications and obstacles. You need to put all priority tasks on the “To Do” list to ensure they will be finished within a given timeframe.
- Pay attention to the workflow. Your workflow will be smooth if you do everything right. To figure out whether your kanban system works efficiently and moves you towards achieving your objectives, consider monitoring the key metrics, including lead time, cycle time, blockage areas, number of items not started, etc.
- Remember about constant improvements. After the implementation of the kanban system, you still need to work on the improvements. They can be related to efficiency, the progress of tasks, time spent, etc. You should make sure that every completion of a new task brings you closer to a perfect product.
Now that you know the principles, let’s discover the difference between the two most popular project management frameworks. This section will identify the perfect one for your business goals.
Kanban vs Scrum
Since people often misinterpret these two frameworks, we need to explain the difference. Although both kanban and scrum have something in common, they still apply distinctive approaches. In this section, we'll review each of them in detail.
Kanban is a project management framework that suits businesses that need continuous flow. Teams using kanban boards focus on a flow of tasks to be completed. Kanban helps visualize work and improve efficiency. Team members strive to finish the project’s tasks as soon as possible. They track the kanban board and try to improve their productivity. Kanban improves transparency across the company and decreases inefficiencies.
Scrum is a project management framework consisting of regular fixed-length sprints (from one to four weeks). Team members deliver results in intervals of time, called sprints. This Agile methodology (project completion done by dividing the project into several phases) is created for complex projects requiring team members to adapt to constant changes. Teams don’t wait for the deadline of the project to complete the tasks because they deliver the results in stages. Once completed, the task is submitted to the system.
Now that you know the difference, let’s find out how to implement a kanban system. If, after exploring all the features of this project management framework, you decide that it’s a perfect solution for your business, you should know how to bring it to life.
How to implement a kanban system?
If you are sure that you want to implement a kanban system, we'll show you how to do it. We’ve prepared a short step-by-step guide that covers the essential points.
- Map out the workflow. Whether you develop a physical or digital kanban board, you need to define and visualize your workflow. It will help you create a valuable product with all the necessary features for your customers. Divide your work into units based on the urgency of completion. Review all your tasks to ensure you include everything you need to bring an excellent product to the end consumer.
- Incorporate WIP constraints. WIP (work in progress) constraints are limits you put on the number of work items you focus on during a specific period of time. The constraints are necessary to limit the number of work units in one column. The number of units depends on your business and product. To proceed to the next step, you need to create some space for it. After that, the work will continue.
- Set up the workflow. To make your workflow operate properly, assign classes like “Standard,” “Expedite,” and “Fixed Date” to work items. Classes with a higher priority can be the first in the queue, while low priority items you can skip first. You’ll prevent high cost-of-delay items from getting stuck because of the low one. This might result in improper work or even cause a stop. Splitting the items into classes enables you to ensure a smooth workflow.
- Calculate cycle time. When working with a kanban board, you should always consider optimization in terms of speed and quality. You can measure it with a cycle time metric. To estimate the cycle time, you should identify the time your team spends to complete a unit of work and move towards the main goals.
- Make wise modifications. Before making changes to your kanban board, run an experiment first. It will help you find out whether you want to make the right decision. Make sure that it will bring specific, measurable results. Once you are sure about the modifications, make them and let your team test the changes. They will assess the effectiveness of these alterations.
Now you know what kanban is and how it works. Hope that our guide will come in handy when you decide to implement this project management system.
- This article defines the term and unveils the advantages and disadvantages of kanban.
- This article uncovers how to implement a kanban system.
Last Updated: 22.03.2023