How much in control are you? Do you know the most important things you need to take care of right now? There are many methods and tools for people to get things done, but Kanban is quickly becoming the tool of choice. You have probably heard of it before or may have even used it. And time has proven that it’s not a fad. Kanban didn’t just contribute to help Toyota to become the automotive industry’s role model for productivity and efficiency; it can help you to prioritize and get things done too.
In today’s tech savvy world, where everyone and everything is connected through smartphones, tablets, productivity tools and social networks, we have the potential to be more creative and productive than ever before. Kanban, which in Japanese is “visual card”, is a simple but utterly effective way to manage your life and work visually. Often available on your platform of choice, it helps you to make the most out of the new capabilities. And to get things done.
What is a Kanban board?
It’s a board, traditionally a whiteboard but nowadays digital, which consists of cards where you can add your ideas, tasks and issues that need to be worked on. You can change the status of the cards by moving them between columns as the work progresses. You can set up whatever columns you need, but the classic set up is ‘to do’, ‘doing’ and ‘done’. By looking at the Kanban boards, you see which specific work items are in the process, potential bottlenecks and where there is a good level of flow. As simple as that. Why didn’t anyone think of it before? And why does it work at all?
1. Agile – not just a secret for the tech industry
Agile principles of management are now being adopted and implemented across industries, all over the world. The principles are as simple as likable:
The empowered, learning team is the core. Involve customers and stakeholders in the process and do not wait until it is finished. The people doing the work should be the ones planning it.
Kanban has emerged as the tool of choice for agile teams as it visualizes workflows and is powered by sheer transparency.
Lean is another approach that can benefit from Kanban. The IT sector, especially software development, has adopted values, principles and concepts from lean manufacturing and product development. Lean originated in the Toyota production system as a scheduling process developed to determine what, when and how much to produce. Software developers are embracing lean principles too, and due to the prevalence of software developers and IT teams in general in organizations globally, we’re seeing these working methods spread organically to other teams and parts of organizations too.
2. Be smart, even if your workplace is stupid
The expectations on you are clear: be productive, smart, reliable and a likable colleague. The expectations on your employer are very similar. The market puts increasing pressure on organizations when it comes to higher productivity and a competitive edge.
Visual management can be the cure for many employees, project managers and teams. The beauty of Kanban is that it can be used to visualize practically any type of work item.
It gives up-to-date information about what is in progress and how work is flowing through the process. This leads to insights of areas to improve, such as eliminating bottlenecks and streamlining processes in general. They are forced to become more efficient by doing more with less. Meanwhile, a study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group shows that the number of procedures, vertical layers, coordination bodies and decision approvals in companies has increased from 50 to 350 percent over the last 15 years. No wonder employees are struggling to find their way through the information overload.
Kanban boards are gaining ground because they stand for something new. They make it possible for people to focus on the right tasks by self-organization. The board simply makes it easier for us to prioritize, which is crucial when it comes to efficiency. And even more crucial for engagement and team spirit.
3. Working together is better
True and effective engagement amongst internal or external stakeholders is very hard to dictate. There is a growing interest in how people behave in different situations and what influences our actions, from behavioral economics to CBT. For managers it is of great interest to unlock the engagement that turns your employees from drones to missionaries. The key is to access the link between formal workflows and informal information.
Technology is an unprecedented tool to reinforce behaviour and reach out to stakeholders. The now omnipresent social networks have taught us a lot. After 10+ years, we now know how to interact online and drive work forward as we use the techniques in our daily lives.
By introducing additional social networking elements to the Kanban methodology, people’s positive behaviors in a project towards a common goal are shaped even further. How? Think about the success behind social media, where visibility, feedback functionality and a feeling of belonging are important features. Social technologies such as conversation tools and activity streams, have created new opportunities for showing, rewarding and shaping actions. Merge these technologies and collaboration capabilities with Kanban and you will have an outstanding, modern-day workspace.
4. Control through transparency
One concept of the Kanban methodology is especially attractive: By being open, you gain control. Management, regardless of industry, is the act of optimizing resources and getting people together to accomplish goals while using available resources in r possible best way. However, many managers waste their time on detailed planning rather than focusing on the goal and having a strategy to reach it. As things change, detailed plans quickly become obsolete.
With Kanban boards, your team becomes empowered. It increases the level of self-organization to get the job done. As the level of involvement raise, so does the level of engagement. Managers and stakeholders get instant status updates by reviewing the cards, without struggling with details or attending endless touch-base meetings.
If you are managing a mobile workforce, trustworthy tools for real-time collaboration and information sharing is crucial. Digital Kanban boards provide in this case the real-time visibility, collaboration possibilities and transparency required.
5. You’re tech savvy enough
Nowadays, with the ease of smart devices, most of us qualify to be appointed power users of social technology, from social media to mobile technologies. The threshold to allow technology to help us manage work and life is lower than ever. You just need to accept that there are more effective workspaces these days for your own and shared tasks, and look beyond Outlook, Excel and Linkedin.
Technology will continue to drive productivity and collaboration across teams and organizations. Online conversations, cloud-based document collaboration and social tech designs such as the ‘like’ buttons reinforce positive aspects of collaboration and productive teamwork. These capabilities, integrated in a digital Kanban board, provides an optimized setup to kick start whatever it is that you want to accomplish.
This blog is written and sponsored by Planview.