The Kanban method was created in Japan in order to manage the supply and flow of materials in stock for production lines, without waste or delays, in a fairly visual and easy to understand way: using colored cards.
Actually, Kanban can be translated from Japanese as “card” or “sign”.
The Kanban method was designed by Toyota in the 1960s and was eventually adapted to manage other process flows through a framework of task lists such as “to start”, “in progress”, “review” and “ready”. The cards representing tasks flow through the lists until conclusion, as in the illustration:
Source: Denver Peak Academy
Also check out: Kanban workflow: create your board in 5 steps
Kanban Best Practices When Using the Method
1- Visualize the workflow
When a Kanban board is being used during a project, one of its great benefits is that it allows visual and intuitive illustration of how the tasks are flowing and running.
Thus, if there are excessively overworked steps, bottlenecks, or other obstacles that are easily noticed, the team must come together to determine ways to deliver the most important jobs in the best possible way, overcoming these difficulties.
For example: in a production line, noticing that several cards are “piling up” at a certain stage, the team must find out why this bottleneck is occurring and determine the best way to solve it.
2- Limit work in progress
When determining a threshold for WIP (Work in Progress), the team defines the optimal quantity and work they can accomplish with quality and within the desired specifications.
In this way, the creation of bottlenecks or the accomplishment of tasks outside the required standards is avoided.
For example: in a company that produces content for blogs, it can be defined that at most there will be 10 works under review at the same time, otherwise the quality of this task may fall, causing many errors and re-works.
3- Create clear rules for each step of the process
For the Kanban method to work properly, you must have well-defined rules for each board list that dictate when a task is complete. This allows the task card to be transported to the next list.
For example: in a vehicle dealership, each step of the car review process has a fairly complete checklist, with items such as “check engine oil level” or “test belt resistance”. Only when all items are completed can the card be moved to the next list.
4- Use a visual indicator for “tasks completed”
Often a task is in a list waiting to be executed, but the person responsible for continuing the process flow doesn’t easily understand which tasks in the list are in progress and which tasks have been completed.
Using a clear “task completed” indicator will prevent stoppages due to a lack of information about the project’s status.
For example: let’s use the example from above regarding car dealerships.As well as a visual indicator on the Kanban board or software (such as a green sticker on the carton), cars that have already been fully revised and are waiting to be washed before delivery to the customer can have the windscreen wiper raised, indicating to the washer that the car is ready for washing.
5- Blocked task indicator
It’s very important to draw everyone’s attention to a task that can not continue in the flow due to reasons unrelated to the will of the employee.
In addition to avoiding friction, as other members of the team will soon learn the reason for the “blockage”, the manager or other team members will take the necessary steps to remedy the problem as soon as possible.
For example: add a red label to a card that can not proceed in the flow because an input to your production is missing. This signal will cause someone in the team to trigger those in charge of providing this input.
6- Periodic feedback
The Kanban method may end up becoming extremely rigid and inflexible if teams don’t meet periodically to discuss how some procedures are being performed.
For example: a meeting can be held on a monthly basis so that members can make improvements in the process which they believe to be beneficial, based on their daily experiences, metrics and results.
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