Kanban, the Japanese word for “visual signal” is a methodology used by teams of all fields to provide visual affirmation of the progress and completion of day-to-day tasks. Achieving the Kanban flow is not hard when you have the right visual tools to guide you.
Kanban was derived from Toyota’s Taiichi Ohno who studied the “Just-In-Time” delivery system of American supermarkets in the 1940s. Ultimately, the grocery store shelf is only replenished when an item stock is low or empty. The empty shelf signals the supply chain to pull more inventory through. With this approach, employees can focus on what really sells and spend less time, money and effort pushing items that don’t sell or already have full shelves. This approach was transformed into a more standard and tangible method for teams of all industries.
Both Kanban and Scrum are Agile approaches to systems thinking. Just like Scrum, (Kanban’s sister methodology,) Kanban is focused on work flow speed and end product quality. But while Scrum is great for 1-4 week projects called “sprints,” Kanban is the better choice when there is a need to optimize tried and true methods and everyday operations. For that reason, Kanban does not utilize hard due dates. Instead, it focuses on lead time. Check out the diagram to understand the relationship between Scrum and Kanban. If you want to learn more about Scrum and if it’s a better Agile method for your team, check out our blog post on implementing Scrum here!
Elements of the Kanban “Flow”
A team cannot apply the Kanban method without the “Kanban,” which literally means signboard. The entire method revolves around the visual representation of the work items being “pulled” from right to left. A Kanban board is usually made with a dry erase board and Kanban cards which represent work items. The cards can be made with sticky notes but we prefer reusable dry erase magnet strips. A basic Kanban board has columns that represent stages of the work process from start to finish. The stages house the Kanban cards, aka work items. Your Kanban is completely customized to meet your team’s needs. It might be as simple as To-Do, Doing, Done. Or it may be more detailed, like these work stages:
Is Kanban Right for Your Team?
The great thing about the Kanban methodology is that it can be applied to any existing workflow with team members of any role. While Scrum has a Scrum Master who governs the board, every team member on a Kanban team is responsible for pulling their work item through the stages. In a Kanban work team, members are committed to constantly adding, pulling and removing work items, just as much as they are committed to updating and changing the structure and organization of work stages. The structure and organization of a Scrum board are more fixed while those of a Kanban board can and should be fluid; constantly changing and continuously improving. The constant visual flow of work can help teams to analyze how effective and efficient their current work processes are and learn from mistakes quickly.
Types of Kanban Boards
Customer Centered Kanban Board
Agencies, consultants and any other service providers might find this board most helpful because it provides a way to organize work by customer. Additionally, it allows a team to work on multiple steps at once and still measure progress. When each customer has a very different set of needs and each work stage requires specific steps, this detailed Kanban board might be just right. It has just enough room for 3-4 work items to fit comfortably within the Work in Progress (WIP) work stage. This limiting of WIP helps teams focus on one thing at a time.
The Analysis Kanban Board
The analysis Kanban board passes work items sequentially through groups of specialized team members. Once Jenn and Carl are done with Approval/Rejection stage, then Joseph and Alex can start putting the information into a standard spread. The board design also provides a space to record analysis and feedback. The visual reminder can prompt your team to commend great work and talk through problems like bottlenecks, lagging lead time, or system glitches. If you want to see more boards like this, check out our portfolio of 100+ designs.
The Do-Done Board
This simple board can help teams become a well-oiled machine by implementing routine. It can house work tasks that are as simple or complex as can be. The Do-Done board is especially helpful for brick and mortar or retail businesses that require a daily opening and closing procedure. Seeing all of your tasks in the done column provides a sense of accomplishment.
Calendar Kanban Board
Accomplish your monthly goals with a Kanban calendar. What makes this Kanban unique is it’s ability to provide a “big picture” view and allows you to monitor the effectiveness of habitual events and tasks that are scheduled to take place. This choice of Kanban board is useful for job duties focused on maintenance. For example facilities, mechanical or grounds maintenance teams that have units to update and areas to monitor can use this type of dry erase board design to record changes or report incidents. The most important element of this design is its ability to gain history. At the end of the month, it’s easy to tally the successes and failures to understand how this month measures up to previous ones.
What Can Kanban Do for Your Team?
The focus of your unique Kanban board should be to provide instant feedback for continuous improvement. When teams let their Kanban become a guiding light, it can drastically improve self-awareness, communication and, of course, camaraderie. By physically moving their work items to the “Done,” column, or giving their work item a simple check mark, Kanban members will begin to own their work and initiate necessary structural and organizational changes. You can find more Kanban board design examples in our lean manufacturing blog post here.
If you know exactly what you need, you can head to our custom printed dry erase board listings here! Once you order the exact size and type you need, you’ll be able to upload a design or tell us which board design you want us to use as a template.
Why Choose OptiMA?
We are a woman-owned small business making our products in the USA. We specialize in dry erase boards, dry erase wallcoverings, portable dry erase units, high-quality custom printed whiteboards, fast shipping, and five-star customer service. Over the last three decades, we’ve worked hard to deliver industrial quality whiteboard solutions that won’t break customers’ budgets.
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