Companies face challenges every day about how to best manage their projects. It’s an unfortunate reality that many companies fail to get internal projects completed on time and they often go over budget too.
While it’s easy enough to blame the staff for inadequacies, often it’s the project management that’s largely to blame for the failures and not the employees themselves. After all, employees are only as good as the systems they’re asked to work within.
Here we’ll look at the Kanban methodology and its approach to project management to see if this holds the answers.
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Why Use Kanban?
The central idea with Kanban is to use cards representing each task and place them on one of three boards. Initially, these board signify tasks that are ready to start, are being worked on or have been completed already. For projects, related tasks link to the individual project to keep track of both.
Kanban was an idea borne out of a need to streamline production. Rather than produce products based on estimated demand and have some returned from dealerships unsold, Toyota adopted a new philosophy to produce based on demand instead.
The car company needed a way to track each order, the tasks within the production line relating to it, and its overall progress. The custom nature of each order required that it change to handle the new requirements.
Are There Advantages to Kanban?
With a project management board, you’ll find that it breaks down in a similar way to individual tasks. A project will still get named, have a deadline and sit on a board confirming its overall status (To Do, Doing or Done).
Beyond that though, its project card has links out to other tasks that each have their own status. Therefore, some of these tasks may not have begun yet, whereas others are already completed, and a few are a work in progress.
As a comparison, using a task list doesn’t work as well. This is because it’s hard to visualize all the outstanding tasks and projects correctly.
People just aren’t necessarily that imaginative. While a GANTT chart might do the trick, they’re really only suitable for extensive projects over long periods of time and people who are trained in how to utilize them.
Kanban is easy enough for employees at different levels of education and work experience to pick up and use without great difficulty.
As such, Kanban is far more usable as a project management tool because the whole organization can get involved.
An online tool like Kanbanize is usable across the organization because it is setup per user, giving them sufficient access to update their board as needed.
Are There Disadvantages to Kanban?
When it’s just one person and they aren’t handing off tasks to other people, then a simple list of things to do is the best approach. It’s fast, simple and easy to use. In fact, it’s often quicker to carry around a mini notebook and pen than to enter everything into a To Do app.
These types of To Do lists work well for basic tasks where they’re not projects that breakdown into many tasks and sub-tasks to complete.
When you start seeing more complexity, then you’re better off with a system like Kanban that’s designed to handle projects, tasks and various people being responsible for different assignments. Essentially, Kanban helps with many things, but not everything.
Benefits of a Work in Progress Limit for Companies
A work in progress (WIP) limit is used to restrict how many active tasks there are on a Kanban board. The idea is to avoid having too many tasks outstanding because it tends to slow everything else down to a crawl. Some tasks cannot be started because they’re dependent on other tasks being completed first.
It’s also a reality for people that they don’t manage too many outstanding tasks well at all. It becomes too much mentally to deal with and obstructs clear thought processes.
As a result, it’s a good idea that the individual and team don’t have too many tasks that are currently in progress. Usually people using Kanban set a hard WIP limit to put a fixed number on how many tasks can be assigned to start working on.
What Industries Can Benefit?
While Kanban is often seen being used in technology projects and software development, it’s broadly applicable. Toyota used it to streamline car production. Different manufacturers utilize Kanban for just-in-time production lines around the world.
It’s also an excellent tool to manage multiple projects at the same time while wanting the entire staff to be able to use it. Anyone in any industry who knows how to use a computer can understand Kanban given limited training on the basic principles.
Any company looking to try a new approach to what they’ve done before should consider Kanban methodologies to see if they will be suitable. It’s a flexible system that adapts to the needs of the user, so why not give it a try and see how it works?