Kanban can be a powerful tool to manage your projects and teams. It offers great flexibility and allows each team to create the best path towards enhancing their process. However if it is your first time thinking about Kanban, the framework can seem a little hard to navigate. Compared to other applications under the Agile umbrella, Kanban offers less rules and guidance on how to implement it.
While this may seem daunting, the lack of rules should not distract you from taking on Kanban. Especially if other Agile applications are not fitting in your situation. To help you navigate it, we’ve come up with a list of things to know about Kanban. Hopefully this will shed some light on the practice and make your transition easier.
1 – Every team creates their own rules
One of the first things to note about Kanban is that there are no clear rules each team has to follow. Contrary to a very regulated Scrum process, it is up to the Kanban teams to evaluate the proposed practices and see which of them and how fit into their process. Having said that, there is a certain structure most Kanban teams follow to implement the framework.
1 – The team designs a Kanban board that reflects their process.
2 – The team sets up WIP limits to control how much work can be done at one time.
3 – They decide when each iteration begins and ends based on the amount of created value.
4 – Lastly, the team checks if they have fulfilled their customer expectations.
How the team completes each of these steps and what they do in between is up to them and can vary greatly. However, all Kanban teams have visualized process, limited WIP and iteration based work cycles in common.
2 – Kanban adapts to you
One of the biggest advantages about Kanban is the fact that this framework adapts to you. Yes, you will need to start placing your tasks on a Kanban board and limit WIP, but your process will be enhanced instead of being diminished.
Once you start implementing the framework, you will use a Kanban board to simply visualize all your current processes. Thus, allowing you to manage them with more ease. And then as you continue, you can decide if any changes to the current process have to be made or not. Thus, Kanban will not ask you to revolutionize everything right away but instead will create an opportunity for gradual change. Here are some Kanban board ideas to get started.
3 – Kanban is always changing
Kanban is not a finite system. Instead, it acts more as a guide for where teams should start and can be worked on and improved in any way a team needs it. When it comes to improving Kanban, most teams do that by coming up with creative Kanban boards. Some venture further and introduce new practices to help manage their specific process. And those with experienced Agile practitioners can even create a new Agile framework based on Kanban.
Each of these approaches are actually encouraged and celebrated as they help the teams in question create a more efficient process. The great thing about Kanban is that it allows you to look far various ways to improve.
4 – WIP and steady pace is what drives Kanban
Predictability is extremely important in every project and to achieve this with Kanban you have to remember 2 things – WIP and steady delivery. By limiting work in progress the team can really focus on what they have to do right now. Which allows them to be more focused and finish individual items faster.
Only working one task at a time also allows to monitor the process more closely and thus create a steady predictable pace. By putting the two together, Kanban becomes an efficient and reliable system that can meet client deadlines and deliver great results.
5 – Kanban relies on facts
To gain more clarity and predictability into the processes, Kanban relies on facts and stuff that can be measured. Kanban teams gather data by limiting WIP and measuring team velocity, thus controlling the flow of work and understanding their capacity.
This method gives a chance to identify problem areas quickly and focus on solving them before it is too late. As well as to analyze past efforts and seen how they can be improved in the future projects.
6 – Kanban focuses on the most important
To keep producing relevant work, Kanban teams only plan a certain amount of tasks at a time. The general rule of thumb is to plan enough work for one iteration, but if the team runs iterations longer than a month, they may choose to have a planning session every week or once every two weeks.
By planning for a short period of time Kanban teams gain two things. First, their planning sessions are shorter and more effective. Second, they are more accurate to the client needs. By reviewing where the focus should be placed every week, Kanban teams can ensure they are working on the most important tasks and can react to changing circumstances quickly. Thus, giving them the much needed flexibility.
7 – Kanban is a great way to achieve Agility
The Kanban framework is all about the flow of work and creating value. As such, it encourages teams to focus on the most important items at a time, make sure each task is completed before a new one is taken on and that the end customer is happy with the results.
Running your team this way becomes a great way to achieve Agility. As the main focus of your team turns to quality and delivering value instead of slaving to a particular process. Being flexible in its application, Kanban allows each team to find their own way to Agility and create processes that work for them.
8 – Kanban fits any industry and team
When talking about Kanban, some are still convinced it can only work for manufacturing. While Toyota were the first ones to successfully implement Kanban practices in their production throughput management, this surely does not mean Kanban can’t be beneficial to others. Kanban board is a visual tool to help task management in any industries from engineering to marketing, from consulting to services.
Due to its unconstrained process, teams of various sizes and from various fields can implement Kanban and enjoy the benefits it provides. Kanban “pull” approach allows teams to prioritize the most important tasks and always focus on execution. The only thing they need is willingness to learn about Kanban and take advantage of what it has to offer.
9 – The right tool will help you feel more confident about Kanban
Lastly, when we talk about Kanban implementation, it is important to understand that you will need some guidance. While some companies may have a resident Agile expert, most will need assistance from outside to set up effective processes.
For those completely new to Agile, a trainer or some courses may be a good place to start. While those already having some experience in project management or Agile, simply picking the right tool may be enough. With the help of a tool like Teamhood, your team can set up their Kanban board and start tracking progress immediately. Moreover, the built-in automated reports and actionable Agile metrics will help guide the team on improving their process and growing further. Picking the right tool for the job can be a great start in your Kanban journey.
Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space.
2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood.
2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.