What is Kanban?

Kanban is a Japanese term that means “visual board” or “sign” and has been used to define processes since the 1960s. Kanban in Lean Six Sigma is a method of project management of a team’s workflows that can be used in manufacturing to manage and improve various services. Kanban helps users visualize their work and goals better while maximizing efficiency and continuously improving.

It was originally used in manufacturing but later became a popular territory for software development teams to create their own complex systems. It has been gaining much attention from companies and industries around the world, as many brands have chosen to use it for the benefit of their operations.

To begin with, kanban came about as a scheduling system for lean processes, originating from within the depths of Toyota. As the late 1940s drew to a close, the engineers at Toyota introduced a new method of just-in-time to its production processes.

This was the replenishment pull system. It means that production is solely based on customer demand.

The foundations of Lean manufacturing were laid by their unique Just-in-time production method. Kanban’s core purpose is to reduce waste and produce more value for customers without increasing internal costs.

The software and technology industries realized quickly that kanban could have a positive impact on the delivery of their products and services at the start of the 21st Century. Kanban was able to harness the power of computing technology to improve efficiency.

The official kanban system was created in 2007. You don’t need to know much about lean kanban, just set up a simple Kanban board with three columns: requested, in progress, and done. If the Kanban system is well constructed and managed, and it is working properly, it can serve as a real-time data repository. This will highlight any bottlenecks in the system and anything that could interrupt the work process.

What is kanban for project management?
What is kanban for project management?

How is Kanban implemented?

Every organization should be careful to only follow the most practical steps when implementing the kanban system. Six (6) core practices are required for successful implementation. While mastering them is important, it is still an evolving process that can adapt to the changing climate. 

Step 1. Visualize the workflow

A kanban board is a visual representation of your process in manufacturing. It should contain a few columns and cards. Each column should represent a step of your workflow. Every card represents a work item. The kanban board represents your workflow, with all its risks and specifications.

Understanding how to go from a request to a product is the first and most important thing. Understanding how your system works will help you make informed and necessary improvements. You start work on an item by pulling it from the “to-do” column. When it is complete, you can transfer it to the “done” section. You can track your progress and spot any issues that could affect your production or other commercial operations.

Step 2.  Limit Work in Progress

Kanban is designed to limit the number of active items that are currently in progress. Kanban operations are incomplete if there is no limit on the number of work-in-progress items. The common mistake of shifting a team’s focus halfway through an assignment will cause more harm than good. Multitasking is a sure way to generate waste and inefficiency. To limit work in progress, you should implement a replenishment pull system. This means that you can set a maximum number for each stage so that cards are only pulled into the next steps when they are available.

Step 3.  Manage the Flow

Management of your flow is the control over the movement and timing of work items throughout the production process. The main goal of a Kanban system is to ensure a smooth flow of production. Instead of micromanaging people and keeping them busy, focus on learning the processes and how to move that work through the system faster. Your kanban system will help you create more value in a shorter time frame.

Step 4. Define your process

It is impossible to improve something that you don’t know. Therefore, your process must be defined clearly, published, and shared. While people won’t associate or participate in activities, they don’t believe are useful, they will be more likely to be able to work together to achieve the best possible impact. Work policies can boost self-organization and benefit your brand by being visible, clear, well-defined, flexible, and open to changes if necessary.

Step 5.  Feedback Loops

Implementing feedback loops is an essential step for companies and teams that desire to become more agile. They help ensure organizations can respond appropriately to changes and allow for knowledge transfer between stakeholders. Kanban encourages the use of feedback loops at both a team and service-oriented level. Kanban’s manufacturing team project management service-oriented cadences, such as operations, delivery, and risk, aim to improve and synchronize the delivery of your services. These reviews can help you make informed decisions about how to improve your services. Focused, regular meetings with fewer participants have been proven to be effective. However, the optimal length of specific kanban sessions depends on the context you are in, the size of the team, and the topics you cover.

Step 6.  Improve Collaboration (using models and the scientific method).

Collaboration is key to achieving continuous improvement and sustainable changes within any organization. This can be achieved by implementing changes that are based only on scientifically proven methods, feedback, and metrics. It is crucial to establish an organizational culture where every hypothesis is tested to determine whether it has positive or negative results. This will help you develop a business mindset that is focused on continuous improvement through evolutionary change.

Why should you adopt the Kanban Method?

What are the benefits of using kanban in lean six sigma?
What are the benefits of using kanban in lean six sigma?

Increased Delivery Speed

Kanban provides multiple options for project management teams to monitor and analyze the team’s work distribution. You can see the work items that have been completed over a given time period and identify the bottlenecks. These challenges can be tackled by teams to improve their workflows and delivery rates.

Increased Visibility for the Flow

Kanban’s lean basic concept is to visualize every piece of work. The Kanban manufacturing board becomes a central information point and everyone is on the exact same page. Transparency is achieved by making all tasks visible. They never get lost. Each team member can receive a brief update on the status and progress of each project or task.

Improved Predictability

You can begin to analyze your workflow with flow metrics once you have created your own kanban board. You can improve your forecasts of the work you can do in the future by analyzing how long tasks take to complete your workflow (cycle time). Your forecasts will be more accurate if you know how consistent your delivery rates are. You can also base your decisions on data.

Alignment of Business Goals and Execution

Kanban helps to align the company’s strategic goals and teams’ day-to-day work by encouraging transparency, feedback, and regular review meetings. The organization’s agility is enhanced by the alignment of business direction and execution. This allows teams to adjust to changing priorities or reorganizations due to changes in market preferences or customers’ preferences.

Reducing Waste Output

Kanban in lean six sigma is a project management tool, it’s an acronym that means work should only be done when there’s a demand. Kanban helps manufacturing teams reduce waste by focusing on the tasks that are urgently needed, and not creating large stocks of goods that might never be used or bought.

Increased Capability to Manage Scale and Dependencies

When it comes to managing dependencies and mapping, the intrinsic kanban manufacturing approach to visualization can be used. Kanban’s Project Management of dependencies can provide insight into the current state of a workflow as well as ideas for improving it. This allows for full transparency in the strategic management of the workflow and existing links between teams.

Kanban works well for any lean business that wants to reduce costs and waste, but not negatively impact the quality or customer service.