What is Kanban?
In this article we will bring information about Kanban principles types implementation advantages and as productivity tool.
Kanban is a method developed by Taiichi Ohno, a Japanese engineer and entrepreneur that focuses on performing key (essential) tasks in a continuous workflow.
Through this methodology, essential tasks are always prioritized and executed when necessary and in the appropriate volume.
This methodology can be applied in companies and industries of any area and is part of the modernization process with attention focused on the result.
So, in a simple way, this methodology involves the use of cards or post-its (representing the tasks) that are distributed in several columns, representing the stage of execution.
This configuration of the cards allows the control of the entire project in a simple and practical way.
In this way, the entire team is jointly in control of the project ‘s progress .
Keeping everyone on the same page, Kanban gives you an overview of priorities for a given time and makes managing people easier .
But despite all these advantages, the main purpose of Kanban is to control the tasks that are in progress .
This limits tasks to the highest priority ones so that everything runs smoothly and the team doesn’t waste time on less important tasks.
Kanban is considered an agile methodology, like Scrum, and one of its goals is to promote a sustainable business environment.
The creation of the Kanban methodology
Legend has it that the development of this system took place when Ohno, the creator, was suddenly inspired by the way supermarkets organized their shelves.
The Kanban methodology emerged within Toyota factories — also known as the Toyota Production System — and soon became popular, as it allows flexible and efficient management of tasks in progress.
Kanban was born from Toyota’s need to modernize and seek better results.
The Japanese car manufacturer was looking for greater efficiency and balance between its stock, the production line and sales through a system that allows for better communication .
A very curious point is that this method is also heavily influenced by the American Henry Ford through his book “ Today and Tomorrow ”.
At the time of its creation, Kanban worked as follows:
- the factory floor workers themselves made the survey, in real time, of the available parts;
- when necessary, a card (Kanban) was passed to the warehouse, requesting more parts;
- the warehouse, in turn, asked the suppliers to replenish the stock.
All this is known as just-in-time manufacturing method . In a simplified way, it can be said that Kanban optimized the inventory management and assembly of Toyota cars.
The method underwent adaptations to be implemented in other areas, and one of the most used this method to date is the area of software development .
Today, this method can be easily applied using some platforms that we will cover later in this text.
How to use Kanban?
This method is primarily used as a visual process flow that can be tracked on a Kanban board, whether physical or virtual.
It is also necessary to have a logic of constant improvement , involving the entire team and engaging everyone involved in the project.
The board, which is the general control of the project, is composed of the following basic items:
- backlog: column with all the tasks (cards) that need to be developed so that the project reaches its completion and its results can be measured. In the image, it is illustrated by the column “idea”;
- to do (to do): here is a selection of the processes that have the highest priority at the moment, better controlling what is being developed and why;
- executing (doing): when the tasks are being executed, the responsible collaborators move the cards to this column;
- Done: When tasks are finished, cards are moved to the last column.
Of course, these are not the only steps (columns) that can be created on a Kanban board.
Every company has a unique workflow, and you can customize the way you organize each stage of the process.
For example, several companies use the column “Under review”, as the manager of that team needs to approve the production before completing it, or even moving on to the next step.
Always keep in mind that the objective here is to control the tasks being performed, prioritizing the most essential for the project at that moment.
Remember: when the team tries to do everything at once, it is very likely that something will go wrong.
The principles of Kanban
To finish the conceptual part about Kanban, there are some fundamental principles for the processes to run without friction and really fulfill the objective proposed by the methodology.
1. Do not discard the current process
This methodology is not designed to be disruptive, but to enhance the current process.
In other words, it is not worth throwing the entire process already designed in the trash and putting another one in its place, this would only confuse the collaborators and generate resistance.
Thus, the process must be carried out gradually and at a pace that the other team members feel comfortable with.
2. Respect current roles and roles
The functions are determined by the job and salary plan that clearly delimit the performance of each professional in the company.
Therefore, it is interesting to respect this document and also the position for which the employee was hired.
This methodology allows an overview of the processes and, together with the team, it is possible to identify any changes that are necessary in these processes.
3. Encourage leadership
Kanban is a methodology that needs everyone’s involvement so that one of its premises is true: constant improvement .
In this way, encouraging everyone to be protagonists and leaders, regardless of their place in the hierarchy, provides innovation.
Not only, an environment open to new ideas also stimulates a healthy organizational climate .
The three types of Kanban
The Kanban methodology has two types that can be implemented according to the specific need of your company, plus a third that has emerged in recent years.
See below what the two types of Kanban are and when to implement it in your company.
This type is suitable for monitoring and improving processes and works a lot as we said above.
It has as a principle a column that works as a task repository, one for tasks in progress and another for completed ones.
It is important to make it very clear that there are some minimum items for the cards:
- a quick description of the task and the stages of its execution;
- the maximum delivery time;
- responsible for promoting it.
Employees must move tasks according to their status, and this production control is what gives this type of Kanban its name.
This methodology, in turn, is much more similar to the one used by Toyota when we talk about the history of this methodology.
It works in a similar way to the previous type, however, its main objective is to control the stock with a view to immediate production. Let’s explain!
Imagine that Toyota needs to produce 1,000 cars, but the factory only produces 100 at a time, in three steps: assembly, painting, and finishing.
In this way, it is possible to record the parts needed for each production run on cards that are sent to stock.
The stock, in turn, synchronizes the parts with the suppliers so that the production line never stops, but also so that the factory never has an excess of parts.
This allows for much more sustainable stock control and even identify those items that need a differentiated stock.
3-E-Kanban: the digital model
With digital transformation — and the aggravating factor of the pandemic — it is simply impossible to ignore the need to take these agile methodologies to the digital environment.
E-Kanban is nothing more than these same methodologies adapted to be used in business management software.
Where can you apply Kanban in your company?
One of the great appeals of this methodology is precisely its flexibility, being possible to apply it in different sectors, being only necessary to customize the flow for each reality.
Some examples of where Kanban can be applied are listed and explained below. Check out!
1-Sales flow management
Especially in small and medium-sized companies with a low volume of customers, this can be the ideal tool to follow the sales process.
Leads in purchasing processes enter as new cards and progress on the board as the negotiation progresses as well.
Once the sales process is completed, that same customer can fall directly into the production frame and thus start a new flow until the service or product is delivered and the customer leaves happy.
2-Selection and recruitment process
Therefore, for companies that do not do recruitment and selection processes very often, Kanban is an excellent way to manage this activity efficiently.
Imagine a selection process with several phases and tests. Here, the cards represent the candidates and the columns the steps they went through until there is only one candidate left at the end.
Kanban is used to manage virtually any project, regardless of its level of complexity and how many people are involved.
The step by step to implement Kanban
Implementing Kanban is not difficult — all the more reason for you to adopt this method.
To get started, you need a physical board or management software. After that, just follow the steps below.
1. Process mapping
If your company does not have all the processes properly mapped, this is the first step.
This step allows you to identify which columns are needed and gives you an idea of what needs improvement.
This is the time to unleash your creativity to create interesting names for the steps that match the company’s internal culture .
Here you can use colors, tags and other visuals to help the team identify the status of tasks.
This is a part of the Kanban method implementation that HR is already quite used to.
Whenever there is any significant change, it is important to conduct training with the team and explain the new operation.
4. Continuous improvement
Process optimization does not happen overnight, it is a sequence of cumulative feedback that results in near-optimal flows.
Thus, it is worth emphasizing that the best scenario for this is one in which employees feel free to share their opinions and views.
The main advantages of the Kanban method
If until now the advantages of using the Kanban process were not clear to you, we also list them below.
Kanban, at its core, is a visual method that allows entire teams to quickly understand the project stage and current priorities.
This holistic view allows access to information in a simplified way, involving employees throughout the planning process, being ideal for the home office.
2-Simplicity in everyday life
One of the great appeals of Kanban is precisely its practicality of implementation and simple learning curve.
Easy to understand, this tool allows the adaptation process to be short and for employees to buy the idea more easily.
It is extremely common to find redundant or unnecessary processes within a company. Yours certainly does too.
With the overview and a mindset of constant improvement provided by the method, it becomes simpler to eliminate these unnecessary steps and focus on what really brings results.
4-Clear priorities and goals
By limiting the amount of tasks and setting deadlines, employees’ ability to focus increases.
In addition, the Kanban board also acts as an excellent point of control so that managers can more intuitively determine what is really a priority for that moment.
5-End of idleness among employees
Team idleness is a common problem and managers have to be careful not to generate financial losses.
As the tasks and responsibilities are already described in the control board, it is enough for employees to consult it to know the next stage of the project and the deadlines that must be met.
Thus, employees also tend to become more independent and proactive.
Kanban as a productivity tool
How to distribute tasks in a balanced and transparent way, without overloading employees? This is one of the questions that Kanban comes to answer.
With an overview of the board, it is much simpler to divide the work and ensure that everything is delivered on schedule.
This dynamism in the processes and the insertion of employees directly into the planning helps to motivate the team and increase the sense of purpose. In turn, this directly impacts individual productivity.
Not only that, this same vision enables constant improvement and processes to be increasingly optimized to generate better results.