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With the variety of different methodologies in project management and with new ones being created all the time, it can be difficult to keep track of what exactly they all are and how they are implemented. Here we’re going to look at one of the most popular Agile methodologies and answer that burning question: Just what is Kanban?

What is Kanban?

Kanban was developed by Toyota in Japan to improve the efficiency of their car production facilities. It focused on “Just-in-Time” manufacturing principles to ensure that workflow was smoothed out, bottlenecks were identified and removed and inventory (e.g., car parts) was kept to a minimum to avoid dead costs.

For project management, Kanban can be described as a rather specific creature from the same family. According to the Agile Alliance’s synopsis of Kanban implementation, its core elements can be summed up through its:

  • Values (such as Transparency, Collaboration and Customer Focus)
  • Principles (centered around Change Management and Service Delivery)
  • Practices (what Kanban is on a practical level)
  • Roles (the people who perform functions within the Kanban methodology, though these aren’t necessarily new)
  • Lifecycle (as the Kanban lifecycle is continuous, it is measured by its feedback loops rather than fixed stages)

How Kanban is Implemented in Practice

Still wondering what the actual day-to-day implementation of Kanban looks like for teams and projects? Let’s take a closer look at what Kanban actually means in practice.

Kanban Boards

Adopted from the original signal for supply on Toyota’s factory floor, the Kanban board acts as an important visual indicator and aid. Visualization is a key element of the methodology, and the Kanban board serves to show where each team is due to perform their role (i.e., their “commitment point” as well as when the item is delivered to the customer (the “delivery point”).

Modern project management tools have improved the effectiveness of Kanban, including how a team uses Kanban boards. Clarizen Go, for example, even has a specific Kanban view mode that allows teams to align and visualize their collaboration in terms of Kanban.

Smoothing Flow

Kanban has always been focused on maximizing efficiency by maintaining as much uniformity as possible in processes, despite the variance in tasks requested, as well as keeping time lost in waiting or planning to a minimum. This means identifying and smoothing out bottlenecks and obstacles, so that processes and task delivery can be as regular as possible.

Putting Limits on Work in Progress (WIP)

Having too much on any team’s plate can both be distracting and create a feeling that team members are not performing up to expectations. A key practice of Kanban is to put limits on WIP so that teams know exactly where their focus should be and what they’ll be doing next.

Feedback Loops and Lifecycle

In Kanban, the cadence with which teams perform and report on their tasks is all within a constant feedback loop that describes where they are at any given point, as well as identifying where they should be shifting focus towards next. These include daily Kanban meetings, weekly Replenishment meetings, monthly Operations Reviews and quarterly Strategy Reviews. The constant sharing of information within the feedback loop improves transparency, reduces risk and allows for more precise planning of task schedules.

Increase your business agility with Clarizen’s project management software

Project management tools have revolutionized how methodologies can be used and implemented, and Kanban is no different. From the wealth of collaborative and task-based information on each Kanban board to the ease of communication within feedback loops, Clarizen’s PM tools are game-changers for putting Kanban into practice. To find out what our suite of software can deliver for your organization, get in touch with us today.

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