Business Reporter explores why Kanban, originally a method for improving manufacturing efficiency, is increasingly being used by managers across all industries.
When it comes to work, how in control are you? Are you aware of the most important things that need to be done right now? There is certainly no shortage of methods and tools available to help people get things done, but Kanban is quickly becoming one of the most popular. Maybe you have already heard of it, or perhaps even used it yourself.
Kanban was developed in the 1940s by a Toyota engineer to remove bottlenecks from the manufacturing process. At its most basic, the process uses three steps; To Do, In Progress and Done.
Each team member is allocated tasks, and they can see them visually on a Kaban board. At first, these were physical boards, but as technology evolved, Kaban has become software-driven.
Kanban solutions allow companies to streamline their workflows and improve accountability for teams. As such, they’ve become popular among companies looking to use technology and creative strategies to make their business run more efficiently.
Today, this innovative, agile work management system is used by everybody from freelancers and small business owners to large companies around the world. So, why is it becoming so popular?
Improved work visibility
Work visualization is a key part of the Kanban system.
The Kanban board is the most recognizable feature of Kanban and provides both individuals and teams with the ability to clearly visualize their workflow. Placing tasks on the board when they are in each stage of the process makes it easier for everybody to see what still needs to be done, what’s currently in progress, and what has been completed.
Many online Kanban tools also offer the option for teams to assign tasks to certain people and set deadlines, making it easy to see who is working on what and when it needs to be completed.
Since Kanban changes the focus from starting work to completing work, it is a great method for improving productivity. One of the main features of the Kanban system is to reduce waste by improving work visibility and clearly outlining tasks. This in turn reduces the amount of time that employees spend on tasks that are not necessary.
Kanban allows you to track throughput and cycle time – showing you how your productivity levels change over time and providing you with information that can be used to speed the movement of tasks up through your process and get more done.
Every manager wishes that they could help their team get more done, and Kanban is a tool that allows you to do just that. By boosting productivity and making tasks more visible to everybody throughout the process, Kanban systems allow your team to become more efficient.
Visualizing the work process makes it easier to very quickly and clearly highlight any areas of inefficiency so that they can be dealt with immediately. The process makes it easy to identify problems like bottlenecks or too much work in progress before they become a serious problem for your team.
Improved team focus
Many mistakenly believe that multitasking is an efficient way of doing things – but this is actually far from the truth. In fact, splitting your attention between different tasks can lead to up to thirty minutes of wasted time for each task depending on the work involved.
When working through tasks using Kanban, one of the main rules is that no new tasks are to be pulled into a process before the current tasks have been completed. This ensures that nobody is trying to juggle too much at one time and allows team members to improve results by focusing on a single task at a time rather than several.
Traditional management methods often result in teams being overworked and struggling with more than they can manage. On the other hand, Kanban allows you to implement a system where the team only brings new tasks into the workflow when they have the capacity to do this.
Setting up work in progress limits on each process state ensures that your team is only ever dealing with a level of workload that they can manage at the time, as it limits new tasks from entering the process state before the previous task has been completed.
Many modern businesses are facing increased demand for flexibility and being able to quickly and decisively respond to the needs of customers or the actions of competitors is more important than ever before.
Due to the nature of Kanban, it is much easier to be flexible and make changes that might not have been expected at the start of a project. As a result, your business may enjoy better customer satisfaction and increased competitiveness.
Last but not least, using a Kanban board makes it easier for team members and different teams to collaborate with one another. Digital Kanban boards offer the option for teams and individuals to easily collaborate in almost any setting. When workers can easily see what is being done and to whom tasks are allocated, collaboration naturally becomes smoother.
It’s easy to see why businesses of all sizes around the world are realizing the benefits of Kanban and switching to this increasingly popular method.
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com