Kanban – a method to improve team effectiveness

IC Project , 20 November, 2017

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Let’s imagine that we are implementing a new functionality in a product for our customer. So far, everything has been going well. Everyday stand-ups make it seem like the project is under control. The vision of the approaching deadline motivates us to work and the tasks are carried out faster and faster. And then, suddenly and completely unexpectedly, it turns out that the deadline is at threat and overtime work becomes necessary. The team is struggling to make it on time. Sounds familiar? Fortunately, there are methods to help prevent such a scenario from coming true. One of them is Kanban. The experts in application of this solution claim that it allows to increase the team work pace by 20-30% in a short time. How does it work?

Let’s start with looking at the method itself. Kanban originates from Japan and the word means a “visible list”, i.e. a “card” on which tasks to be performed are presented. Although this tool, which debuted in the Toyota factory, was originally used to control production, its simple rules can be successfully employed in any industry or team. In its simplest form, all you need is a large board hung in a place visible for the entire team, sticky notes and a felt-tip pen. What does project management look like if we use Kanban? We write down all tasks the team has to perform on the sticky notes. We divide the board into three columns (in the basic version) named: “to do”, “in progress” and “completed”, and then we place the particular notes in them. The tasks are moved from one column to another after the specified criteria are met (e.g. only a task accepted by the client can be considered completed). The important thing is that the number of tasks which can be placed in one column at the same time is limited.

What makes this method powerful? It is much easier to manage tasks if they are something more than just empty phrases in our head – if they are given a physical form. Naming and visualizing all tasks the team has ahead of it allows to determine the amount of work to be done. It is no surprise that it usually turns out that there are much more of them than it seemed at first. Thanks to this, the project status is always within arm’s reach and all team members know at what stage their work is. This allows to identify potential problems quickly, before they become real threats, and to eliminate the reasons for standstills. Effect? The job is done on time and the final product is of better quality.

 

 

In the days of the Internet and dispersed teams, the Kanban system has obviously gained its electronic counterparts. You can benefit from all advantages of this solution in ICP where project management is carried out using a virtual Kanban board allowing for work flow visualisation. All you have to do to change the task status or transfer it to another section is… move the “card” corresponding to it to the proper place. The columns dividing the tables are fully modifiable. They can be removed, added or renamed. The cards themselves are also equipped with multiple practical functions. In addition to the text description, you can also add such items as checklists, comments, attachments, colour labels categorising our activities or deadlines automatically saved in the calendar. The legible task distribution and transparency of process flow in the company provided by ICP make communication among the employees much more efficient and improve work productivity.

Kanban is a tool that gives you a simple recipe to reduce the time of task performance, increase the quality of provided solutions and take control over the process we work in. Its skilful use boosts motivation and effectiveness of the project team. It is high time you find out the power coming from the seemingly inconspicuous cards.

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