What is the Kanban Method?

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It doesn't matter if you just want to organize your time better or manage a large company, the Kanban method can help you be efficient and use your time and resources in the best possible way.

We have in our hands a tool that can help us not only better manage our tasks, but that will also provide clarity about what to do and will evaluate how well we do it.

 We can all benefit from this organizational tool. But, how did Kanban come about? What are its principles? How does it work? And why should you apply this method? This article will answer those questions.

What is the origin of the Kanban Method?

It had its origin in the late 1940s, at that time Toyota was going through a financial crisis and was on the verge of bankruptcy, when the company implemented a production system that aimed to produce according to customer demand and identify possible shortages of material within the production line. 

Taiichi Ohno is considered the father of the Kanban System. It was created as a simple planning system, whose objective was to control and manage work and inventory in all phases of production in an optimized way.

One of the main reasons for Kanban's development was Toyota's inadequate productivity and efficiency compared to rival American companies. With Kanban, Toyota achieved a more flexible and efficient production control system that increased productivity while reducing the cost-intensive stock of raw materials, semi-finished materials and finished products.

Later Microsoft engineer David J. Anderson realized that the Kanban method developed by Toyota could become a process applicable to any type of company that needs organization. His first book on Kanban - “Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business”, published in 2010, is the most comprehensive definition of the Kanban Method for knowledge work.

What is the kanban method?

What are the principles of Kanban?

Below are some of the principles of the Kanban Method:

Start with what you do now

Kanban must be applied directly to the current workflow. Any necessary changes can occur gradually over a period of time at a pace that the team feels comfortable with, without interrupting what is already being done successfully. Over time the method will highlight the problems that need to be addressed and will help to assess and plan for changes.

The method will allow you to introduce it incrementally in all types of organizations without fear of excessive commitment or a clash of habits, as there is no need to make radical changes from the start.

Agree to seek incremental and evolutionary change

Kanban will encourage small additional and ongoing evolutionary changes in the current process. The reason for this is that radical changes end up discouraging the team because they can lead to resistance due to the fear of change.

Respect the current process, roles and responsibilities

Kanban implementation does not require a change in the team's roles and responsibilities. It also does not require an immediate change in the process. It will be the team that will decide which functions would do well in your process and when a change in your process should be made. 

This allows teams to easily track changes as they are more manageable and less intimidating. As already mentioned, Kanban was designed to promote and encourage incremental and logical changes without generating fear of change.

Encourage Acts of Leadership at All Levels

Kanban will encourage each team member to present ideas and lead initiatives to improve processes, in addition to improving their ways of working and their products and services.

This reminds us that leadership comes from small initiatives that we take throughout our daily lives. It is everyone's duty to promote continuous improvement of the team and processes in order to achieve optimal performance, whether in your company, department or in your personal life.

What is the kanban method?

How does the Kanban Method work?

The Kanban method uses cards in a process frame that can be physical or digital, the number of cards in each stage is equal to the capacity suitable for the project, routine or process. Each card represents a single piece of work that has a beginning and an end state. The main purpose of representing work as a card on the Kanban board is to allow team members to track work progress through their workflow in an easy way.  

A basic Kanban board has a three-step workflow: To Do, In Progress, and Completed. However, depending on the size, structure and objectives of a team, the workflow can be modified to meet the needs of any specific team.

These cards and where they are located on the board act as a signaling mechanism, which will indicate when a new activity begins. The team can only start working on a new item, once a slot for it is available on the board.

What is the kanban method?

Why should you use Kanban?

We can see for ourselves as a personal routine and a clear, organized work environment helps in the progress of our work and in its efficiency. The method is easy to be implemented and does not require radical changes in the processes.

One of the biggest benefits of the Kanban methodology is the ability to continuously improve the work. It can be used in any work environment and is excellent in situations where work arrives in an unpredictable way or when you want to deploy work as soon as it is ready, instead of waiting for other work items.

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