By guest author Per Holmlund.
Kanban shouldn’t just be
tech’s secret management tool
Are you aware of the most important items on your to-do list that you need to take care of right now? Do you have a solid overview of your team’s status? Are you in control? There are plenty of software tools for people to get tasks done in their personal and professional life, but Kanban is quickly becoming the tool of choice in a wide range of industries and disciplines.
Kanban, Japanese for “visual card”, is an intuitive and simple but very effective way to manage daily tasks. You have probably heard of it, or you might even use it right now. Time has proven that this technology is not just a fad. Not only do agile software development teams use this product, but did you know the best example of successful utilization of Kanban is Toyota? It has become the automotive industry’s role model for productivity and efficiency. And if it helped Toyota, it can probably help you, your team or your business to manage, prioritize and get things done too.
How does it work?
Traditionally set up on a physical whiteboard with Post-It® notes, but nowadays primarily as cloud-based software tools, the Kanban board consists of cards where you can add your ideas, tasks and issues that need addressing. Fully visible for everyone, the status of the card changes as the work progresses by moving it between different columns. You can set up whatever columns you need, so it relates to your particular process, but the classic set-up is ‘to do’, ‘doing’ and ‘done’. By simply reviewing the boards, you see which specific tasks and work items are progressing, and are current or potential bottlenecks.
Simple and elegant, but is it too simple to handle your complex work situation? Here are the 5 reasons why it possibly the greatest management and teamwork tool for you to use.
1.”Agile methods” – not just the tech industry’s secret
Agile principles of management are now adopted across a variety of industries. An established and empowered learning team is the core of the operation, and bring in externals in the process, (your customers and stakeholders.) Iterate, don’t plan too much ahead and do not wait until the project is finished to ask for feedback or market reaction. Lastly, and most importantly: enable self-organization. The people doing the work should be the ones planning it. Kanban is the tool of choice for agile teams as it translates perfectly to the team’s need of self-organization, overview and fast-paced processes.
2. Be smart, even in a not-so-smart workplace
The market puts increasing pressure on organizations when it comes to higher productivity and a competitive edge. The expectations on you are quite similar – stay productive. Kanban as a tool gains ground because it makes it possible for people to focus on the right tasks by self-organization. The board makes it easier to prioritize, which is crucial when it comes to efficiency, engagement, and team spirit. Kanban, is a visual management tool, and is used to visualize any type of work.
It provides up-to-date information for everyone involved about how work is flowing through the process. Areas to improve are often quickly identified. As a result, it often brings new energy into teams and organizations.
3. The magic of
True engagement is hard to dictate. Probably even impossible. But one piece of the puzzle can be found in the link between formal workflows and informal communication.
Technology presents fantastic opportunities for a behaviorist. There are now efficient and transparent ways for project managers and others to reinforce positive behavior within teams and keep a healthy contact with the stakeholders. This is where social media plays a big role. It has taught us a lot about how to interact in a digital environment.
By introducing social media elements and techniques to a software-based Kanban board, which is now available in several of the most popular tools, behavioral mechanisms that shape positive behavior is now possible in a professional environment. Visibility, feedback, and a feeling of belonging are important even at work. Social technologies such as chat and conversation tools, activity streams, like buttons, @-references, and tags have created new opportunities for working together and showing, rewarding and shaping actions. Mash it up with Kanban and you will have an outstanding, modern workspace.
4. Control through transparency
One aspect of the Kanban way of working is especially attractive: openness provides increased control – for everyone. Too many managers are heroes of micro management. Time is being wasted on detailed planning rather than spent on defining goals and creating strategies to reach them. We all know that things change and plans become obsolete, quickly.
The Kanban board is a potential antidote to micro management. The team will be empowered as it will be up to the team members to organize and take on new tasks. Managers and stakeholders get instant status updates by reviewing the workflow and specific tasks, without struggling with details or attending endless touch-base meetings. It increases the level of responsibilities of each member, as well as the team as a whole. And with increased responsibility comes an increased sense of purpose and engagement.
After more than ten years’ experience in PR and communication, Per Holmlund knows a few things about struggling in projects with stressed distributed teams and anxious stakeholders. He is now working for Planview which recently launched Projectplace Pro, an all-in-one project collaboration tool with a new and integrated way to plan, organize teamwork and keep track of personal to-dos for teams and SME’s.