Use the Kanban board in your project

Kanban is a method of production control developed over half a century ago in Japan. It combines information system, planning and control of tasks. In a nutshell, it helps to control the multitude of duties. It will work well not only in large plants. It can also be successfully used in small teams.

Why are we so keen to use methods to visualize the progress of our work, especially in agile methods? It turns out that the human mind assimilates visual information much faster than just the text itself. That's why Kanban board - the virtual and analog one - gained such a huge group of supporters. It is used by big companies, startups, research teams, students and ordinary people who want to effectively handle the duties of everyday life.

Toyota is to blame for everything.

The word "Kanban" is derived from the Japanese language. It can be translated as a billboard or a board with information in the form of cards ("kan" - card, "ban" - signal). The pioneer in the use of this system was the Japanese concern Toyota, which introduced it in the 1960s. At that time it was called TPS production scheduling or Toyota Production System. Subsequent academic reflections on it also led to the development of the term lean.

In practice, the Kanban Table takes various forms. It can be successfully used for its preparation:

  • A wall, a door, a wardrobe or a door to a room, where we will place self-adhesive cards,
  • Classic corkboard, on which we attach colorful cards,
  • A refrigerator with magnets, where we collect daily tasks,
  • Desktop of the computer, on which we segregate the appropriate catalogues,
  • Dedicated software - free, but simplified or paid and properly extended.

Kanban management

The Kanban function is best presented using the example of the Scrum methodology. The team using it is a self-organizing unit, striving for continuous improvement of the creative process. The Scrum Master, who takes care of the production, plans, delegates, monitors and controls the realization of works. The team, on the other hand, will focus on maintaining a certain freedom of action, and the investor is interested in the expected end of work. Therefore, it becomes necessary to set priorities properly, as well as to maintain clear feedback on the progress made, obstacles and possible ways to solve the problems encountered.

For the sake of transparency, the Kanban board should contain a handful of basic information. Below is a quite universal proposal:

  • Backlog - a register containing all the project tasks in the form of cards.
  • Product Backlog - a register with accepted cards necessary to be implemented during a sprint (appropriate time period).
  • In progress - modules that we are currently working on. At this stage, for example, the Product Owner may receive feedback on the expected date of tasks implementation.
  • Waiting for acceptance - a product that does not meet the requirements after verification returns to Product Backlog and waits for entering the next sprint.
  • Accepted - ready module "glued" by project manager or customer.

Digital tools?

The board has been implemented, at least in its "analog" form, and you are already in control of the team's pace. Is it worth going one step further, then? It is worth remembering that in the case of greater cooperation of different teams, not everyone has the opportunity to work in one room or even in a building. Nowadays, modern companies can have a dispersed structure, having their branches in different cities, not to mention the hosts of remote employees.

The most eloquent argument for implementing digital tools is the ability to unify sentences and procedures for a large organization. Daily updates coupled with employee or even private mail in a multitude of duties will help to avoid stress with unforeseen delays. However, even small, multi-person businesses can benefit from the benefits of the digital world. Kanban board will be easily accessible for everyone, even outside the workplace, at any time of day or night.

Łukasz Fiszer
May 15, 2020

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