Derived from the Japanese “signboard” or “billboard”, Kanban is an evolutionary approach which basically indicates “available capacity (to work)” while both visualizing tasks through a steady value stream and focusing on organizational culture.
According to a recent InfoQ article, the Kanban method’s sustainability agenda promotes values such as transparency, balance, collaboration, customer focus, flow, and leadership. If individually each of these brings some challenges, they can collectively offer a significant sense of direction, and a much more outward-looking approach to change.
3 basic principles
Visualize the Workflow
The Kanban method suggests the use of a task board in order to increase visibility of the team’s work, such as card walls, post-it notes, dashboards or columns containing workflow steps. All team members must inspect and understand the workflow so that they might adapt it correctly according to a negotiated delivery trigger. In Kanban there is no one-way road. All ideas are welcome, no matter the number of decisions made to increment previous work. Transparency and communication are enhanced. The keywords on the board are: to-do, doing, done.
Limit Work-In-Progress (WIP)
WIP is a Kanban core concept that refers to finding the right equilibrium between the team’s capacity and the client’s demand. The team is invited to document and define the process as well as set the WIP limits it can cope with. Work has to flow and not get stuck, while goals are easily achieved by not overwhelming team members who are more focused on a smaller number of tasks. Irrespective of the project complexity, efficiency is not sacrificed because at this stage the team can address eventual issues at the right moment.
Optimize the lead time
After having set the WIP limits the next step is to measure the average time necessary to pass one item through all the board stages in order to increase predictability, commit to SLAs and actually meet the release plan.
Besides these three rules Kanban is a highly adaptive method, complemented by a series of customized best practices. Based on the already existing workflow, team members may preserve their initial roles and processes. Unlike major modifications that are neither encouraged, nor recommended because they are frequently received with reluctance by team members, incremental (small and gradual) changes are essential to project success. Moreover, Kanban encourages contributions, whether they are brought by junior employees or senior managers: what brings people together is the same knowledge, and not necessarily working with/for the same project. The whole point of Kanban is to improve existing work and go one step beyond.
By gradually replacing the V-cycle methodology, this out-of-the-box method will consequently lead to a more drastic selection of genuine Agile skills and highly-specialized consultants, to faster re-insourcing of the client’s responsibility, and, against all odds, to success in offshoring. Setting itself apart from other disruptive methodologies, Kanban is easier to implement due to its gradual focus on a company’s ongoing processes.
By implementing Kanban you will help your team:
avoid unnecessary tasks
select and prioritize future work tasks
offer a greater project transparency
better focus on the workflow and service delivery
increase problem solving and decision-making
perform more accurate estimations
improve predictability as well as communication with the other team members
better adapt to change
achieve a higher success rate within a shorter time span
RISKS AND SOLUTIONS
The only risk identified while using Kanban is related to the existence of distributed teams. In cross-national projects having a Kanban board and attaching post-its to it may seem quite a challenge. Nevertheless, electronic solutions are nowadays available and can replace the “real-life” board at any moment. At Pentalog Institute, our technical and strategy consultancy department, we are already using a Kanban tool for managing our projects and we are more than eager to propose this solution to our clients.
WHO IS THIS TYPE OF ORGANIZATION AIMED AT?
Kanban can provide a win-win context for any business interested in benefits such as reduced lead time and costs, increased ROI and higher-quality products and services via the PULL principle. It is perfectly adapted to support and maintenance projects, where there is a continuous flow of items and a dynamic workload. Related to lean and just-in-time (JIT) production, it puts an end to poorly drafted specifications, incomplete test scenarios or badly executed test validations, and, above all, brings the client and the provider together in the embodiment of one single project.
Thanks to Kanban, you will know exactly what, when and how to produce. No more bottlenecks!
Adopt the Kanban motto and Stop Starting, Start Finishing today. Contact us!