Developed in the 1940s in Japan as a framework to ensure just-in-time manufacturing processes, Kanban is often used for process management today, but less so for time management or time tracking. This is a shame because combining Kanban and time-tracking features can provide a powerful combo when you know how to use it.
This article introduces the concept of Kanban time management and explains its benefits and how it works, in the hope that you find this useful when it comes to personal Kanban time management as well as time management efforts with your team.
What is Kanban Time Management?
We already know that Kanban Boards are a great way to measure productivity and visualize workflows. When used for time management, you simply select a Kanban software tool with time-tracking and reporting features that provide you with a customizable timesheet report that contains time logs, making it easy to understand what was done during the time tracked.
Because Kanban is a systematic approach to tracking and managing a team’s work, it will show you what is being done and when. You are able to use the board to track what work has been completed, what work is in progress, and what’s in the backlog building up. This gives you a clear idea of your productivity and your capacity for taking on more work at any given time. Adding time-tracking data into the mix grants another layer of valuable information. You are able to see not only lead and cycle time, but also more precise data on each phase in your process and analyze what can be improved.
Benefits of Kanban Time Management
There are several benefits to using Kanban time management practice for your personal and team needs.
- The first is that it gives you a good idea of your team’s capacity for taking on more work. If you have a large backlog then you know you have limited opportunities to take on more. This is actually one of the biggest benefits, as it reduces the risk of taking on too much, which can result in missed deadlines, upset customers, and overworked team members.
- The second benefit is that it highlights opportunities for improvement in your process or workflow. Because you’re tracking how long things are taking your team and individual team members, you can see where you have potential bottlenecks and issues that you can solve.
- It allows communication of progress more easily. This is true for individual team members as well as between teams and between teams and senior management. Tracking time gives you additional insights into how long each process phase usually takes. All of this is valuable information when communicating the progress with other teams or other stakeholders.
- It helps to simplify processes. It’s easy to overcomplicate projects – especially when managing or overseeing multiple projects at once. Using Kanban for time management is a great way to cut complexity and streamline processes as much as possible.
How to use Kanban for time management
Here are some key rules that will help when using Kanban for time management purposes:
- Keep Work in Progress to a minimum and limit WIP. The standard columns in Kanban include “To Do”, “In Progress”, “Review”, and “Done”. One of the keys to staying productive with time tracking is to limit the number of tasks you have in the ‘In Progress’ and other columns at any one time. This helps to measure productivity on specific tasks, as well as minimizing overwork. Once you see how long it takes to get the ‘In Progress’ tasks done, you can feed that back to estimate how many tasks you’re comfortable having in your “To Do” column.
- Finish a task before adding another. If you keep adding tasks to your Kanban board before finishing the ones you’re working on, you make it more difficult to track the time spent on each one. That’s especially true if you’re moving resources from task to task to get them done. You may well find it harder to work out what you need to get everything done.
- Communicate success. As tasks get completed, it’s important to recognize success within your team as well as the wider organization, as this will help keep motivation high, which will in turn help boost your productivity.
- Look for bottlenecks or other issues to resolve. Every process can be improved, so as you track your productivity, look for those tasks where you’re having trouble. You are likely to find that certain issues that are slowing you down will be the same each time, so you can investigate why that’s the case and look into resolving those issues. Use insights such as Performance metrics to spot which tasks have been left in progress for too long and aim to solve them immediately.
Ready to start using Kanban time management in your organization?
Kanban time management is just one of the many useful functions that Kanban software offers. Now you understand how Kanban time management works, you should have a clearer idea of how time tracking could help improve your team or project productivity.
If you’re interested in using Kanban time management in your organization, the logical next step is to research the available options to see which is likely to work best for you. That’s why we put together this article which compares and contrasts the main Kanban software tools with time trackers.
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.