In Japanese, Kanban means billboard. Though it once started as a method used for manufacturing cars in Japan, Kanban has grown in global popularity. Now, this method can be seen in action in all types of industries, from tech to marketing.
As a whole, Kanban is a tool for running a streamlined production system. Though simple in its form, it’s a way of prioritizing tasks, making efficient use of time, and collaboration between teams. It’s easy to implement in your own business, and it will save you both time and money. Here’s how you can use Kanban for your own productivity.
History of Kanban
As we said above, Kanban started as a system used by automobile manufacturers in Japan. It was first used by Toyota, but then it caught in popularity amongst similar manufacturers. It wasn’t articulated outside of the automobile industry until David Anderson wrote his book Kanban in 2010. His book described how Microsoft used a “theory of constraints” to create what he called a “drum-buffer-rope.”
This led to Kanban’s popularity in the tech industry. It’s said to be an influence for Scrum, a model of software development that focuses on efficiency and automation. Today, this method has reached far beyond its early days of Toyota. Now, it’s seen in offices across the globe, and it’s not going anywhere soon.
How Kanban Works
Now that we understand the motivation behind this method, let’s talk about how it works. The main organization behind Kanban is with a board known as a Kanban board. It’s all about limiting your work in progress. If you’re juggling too many tasks at once, you’re not giving enough attention to the right things. It’s easy to waste materials, time, and energy when you’re spread too thin.
Kanban combats this idea of being spread too thin through value stream mapping. Essentially, every task has its own value. Not everything is as important when it comes to the success of big projects, and Kanban breaks down large tasks into smaller tasks. A leader or manager will be in charge of deciding which tasks have a higher value over others.
A simplified Kanban board is broken into 3 parts: To-Do, In Progress, and Done. First, there’s a large to-do list with all upcoming projects. These can be work for a client, internal projects, or even customer orders. When you quickly put all of these tasks into progress, you lose sight of what’s important. With Kanban, one task at a time is brought into the In Progress column. This big project will then be broken into smaller tasks, once again by their value.
Once the In Progress tasks are completed, they’re moved into Done. When the entire In Progress column is empty, only then will another task take its place. As you can see, this limits the focus to single tasks and goals. There are only a fixed amount of work items allowed in the Progress column, and this is by design.
By tracking workflow, staying on top of your to-do list, and keeping your focus on the most valuable task, your business can run leaner. Your business can’t do it all, but it can put emphasis on the things that are most important at any given time. By doing this, teams will work collaboratively to solve one task at a time without running into consistent problems and inefficient workflows.
Overall, the Kanban method promotes collaborative working and innovation. It’s not a system that’s designed to be a perfect fit right from the start. It will take time, practice, and understanding that things will need to change to build a method that works for your unique needs. With Kanban, you’re encouraged to try new things and alter parts of the method that don’t lead to success.
Building Your Workflow
When it comes to managing your projects and tasks, it’s easy to get lost in the process. Knowing how to create a clear, collaborative workflow that works for your team is part of running a successful business. With the Kanban method, this workflow is broken down to its simplest, most effective form.
As a business leader, you’re responsible for the success of your company. Don’t let your employees feel overwhelmed and overworked. Give them a system that emphasizes clarity and goal setting. Try this method for yourself and see why it’s been used in companies around the globe for decades.