Kanban is one of the most popular agile project management methodologies around. It first appeared in lean manufacturing systems and was adopted by the software industry. It is a versatile project management philosophy known for improving efficiency, collaboration, and productivity. However, it isn’t right for everyone. Is Kanban the right choice for your organization? Let’s look at how you can determine if Kanban is right for your operation.
Your Organization Has a Continuous Flow
Kanban is ideal if you have a continuous flow, where items flow through the system from start to finish. A Kanban board will allow you to see work to be done, work in progress as well as finished tasks. The team decides the maximum allowed level of work-in-process. Then everyone knows when to stop what they’re doing and clear the backlog.
At the same time, you’re better able to balance the workload, preventing burnout of key personnel. The end result is a steady stream of work flowing through the workflow and higher overall productivity.
“Is Kanban agile?” gets asked a great deal, and the answer is that it’s an agile-oriented system and method. This is used across teams with diverse tasks that need to be adaptable. Tasks in progress can be changed at any given moment. They can be put to the back of the backlog or eliminated altogether.
A tool like Scrum, on the other hand, is much more rigid and singular tasks cannot be changed. Scrum would be an ideal tool for a team working on a software development project, for instance, where teams don’t have to rely on external intervention very much. Kanban nimbleness and adaptability is what made it a great tool for product development management.
Your Team Has a Standardized Workflow
Kanban systems are a reasonable choice if you have just a few user stories that you can map as process flow charts. Kanban is ideal for managing processes that have just one or two standardized, repeatable workflows.
On the other hand, variable workflows are not compatible with a Kanban system. If everyone has a unique experience or needs a customized product, Kanban isn’t right for your organization. However, if you have many different operations, you could try to manage each one with its own Kanban board.
Your System Is Stable
A Kanban system doesn’t prevent you from making changes to your operations. In fact, Kanban teams are expected to commit to making incremental changes for the better. Their iterative improvements make things more efficient and eliminate chokepoints.
You can encourage this by holding periodic team meetings to discuss potential improvements and then make them. If something doesn’t work, you’ll see it in the cumulative flow diagrams and can make corrections immediately.
Where Kanban gives you freedom and flexibility is when your priorities may change. Your team will immediately get to work on the problem areas identified by excess WIP. Yet you don’t have to change your workflow in order to implement Kanban or make iterative improvements to it.
Where Kanban doesn’t work is when you want to make massive changes to the workflow or the business model itself. If you’re developing software, Kanban is suitable for managing a continual release of new features but not when you need to deal with fixed release cycles.
How Complex Are Your Processes?
There may also be the possibility that your team could get by without using Kanban at all. Going lean doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to switch to an agile management system. If the information goes smoothly from payment to production to shipment and is easily manageable, measurable, and can be compiled, then you might not need to go for Kanban yet. You could still make your operation leaner by improving flow and reducing lead-time.
How Savvy is Your Team?
You also can’t expect your team to instantly be able to use a Kanban system if they’re not very tech-savvy. You also have to make sure that your management is at least familiar with it.
Do you have at least one person in the house who has even heard of Kanban? If you don’t, then now is definitely not the right time to implement it. We would suggest that you either look for outside help or visit other companies that are using it successfully and do some benchmarking.
Kanban boards give you a clear view of your current workflow and help you improve it while giving you greater control without the need for constant monitoring and micro-management. However, it is only suitable for certain types of organizations. This is why you will need to look at your team, workflows, and processes, and see if Kanban would be a right fit.