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A Gentle Introduction to Kanban Framework

  • Bhumika Dutta
  • Jun 23, 2022
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Every well-run business must grow quickly, reveal itself, and achieve remarkable results in a short period. There will be certain constraints and variances in terms of thought, viewpoint, and techniques when an individual works in a team of exceptionally skilled and motivated individuals. To solve that problem, agile methodologies are used.

 

 

What is an agile methodology?

 

Agile methodology is a product development method that follows the Agile Manifesto's aims and principles for software development. Agile methodologies aim to create the best product possible by forming small cross-functional self-organizing teams that provide small chunks of the functionality regularly, allowing for frequent customer feedback and course correction as required. 

 

Kanban is a framework that is used in Agile projects. It is one of the most basic frameworks for project managers to employ since it helps them properly manage and monitor their projects. The Kanban framework will be discussed in this post, as well as how it differs from other agile frameworks.

 

 

Kanban Framework:

 

Kanban is a well-known Lean workflow management strategy for establishing, managing, and optimizing knowledge work services. It assists you in visualizing work, maximizing productivity, and continually improving. Kanban boards represent work, enabling you to maximize job delivery across many teams and manage even the most complicated projects in one place.


 

Origin of Kanban:

 

"Kanban" is a Japanese term that means "visual board" or "sign." It was invented by a Japanese engineer called Taiichi Ohno in the late 1940s and used by Toyota as a scheduling system for a practice named just-in-time (JIT) production. 

 

Toyota wanted to enhance its engineering and manufacturing processes. Grocery shops employed a "pull" technique of manufacturing, where they stocked depending on predicted consumer demand to prevent having too many items on the shelf, according to company leadership. Toyota chose to pursue this concept of "just-in-time" manufacturing (as stated earlier) and adopted it at its main plant in 1953. This adaptation resulted in the Kanban process.

 

The capitalized name "Kanban," on the other hand, is well-known and related to the development of the "Kanban Method," which was originally established in 2007.


 

“Kanban is a pull system”: What does that mean?

 

A pull system is a Lean approach for controlling workflow by replacing finished work. A vending machine is a great example of a pull system since items are only refilled when they run out. Kanban is a perfect match for this concept.

 

Unlike Scrum or Agile, which concentrate on sprints and iterations, Kanban is concerned with work states. Kanban focuses on breaking work down into little tasks, visualizing them, and keeping the number of things in each work stage to a minimum. Work proceeds from left to right on the Kanban board. When you have finished all of your current work items or when an urgent assignment arises, you choose work from the column to your left. Work-in-progress limitations assist you in enforcing this.


 

What are the principles of the Kanban Framework?

 

The Kanban technique was developed by David J. Anderson (a pioneer in the area of Lean/ Kanban for knowledge work and one of the method's founding fathers) as an approach to the gradual, evolutionary process and system change for knowledge work companies. Its core may be divided into two sorts of principles: change management principles and service delivery principles, and it is centered on getting things done.


 

1. Change management principles:

 

Let's look at the Kanban change management ideas in more detail.

 

  • First Principle: Begin with what you're doing right now.

 

Kanban allows you to layer the approach on top of current workflows, systems, and procedures without affecting the status quo. Existing procedures, jobs, responsibilities, and titles are valued and should be preserved, according to the technique. Naturally, it will bring to light problems that need to be addressed, as well as assist in assessing and planning changes to ensure that they are implemented as smoothly as feasible.

 

  • Second Principle: Agree to Work Towards Gradual, Evolutionary Change. 

 

The Kanban approach is intended to encounter the least amount of opposition possible. By including collaboration and feedback forms, it fosters minor incremental and evolutionary modifications to the present process. In general, large-scale changes are avoided since they are often met with opposition owing to fear or uncertainty.

 

  • Third Principle: At all levels, encourage acts of leadership.

 

Leadership at all levels is based on people's daily observations and actions to enhance their working conditions. Each shared observation, as trivial as it may seem, encourages a continual improvement attitude (Kaizen) to achieve optimum performance on a team/department/company level. This can't possibly be a management-level task.

 

Also Read | Scrum Framework: What it is and How does it work?


 

2. Service Delivery principles:

 

Kanban strives to create a service-oriented mindset. It requires a deep understanding of your customer's demands, the creation of a network of services where individuals self-organize around the task, and the continual evolution of your system.

 

  • First Principle: Concentrate on the needs and expectations of your customers.

 

Each organization's focus should be on providing value to its customers. Understanding your clients' requirements and expectations draws attention to the quality of the services you give and the value you deliver.

 

  • Second Principle: Organize Your Work

 

When you manage the work in your network of services, you enable individuals to self-organize around the job. This allows you to concentrate on the intended results rather than the "noise" caused by micromanaging the service providers.

 

  • Third Principle: Examine the Service Network regularly.

 

To build a customer service culture, a service-oriented strategy must be evaluated regularly after it has been formed. Kanban fosters the improvement of supplied outcomes by conducting frequent assessments of the network of services and evaluating the work rules in use.


 

The working of the Kanban Board:

 

The kanban board is crucial to the Kanban system. It is a program that visualizes the whole project and allows users to follow its progress. A new member or an external entity may comprehend what's going on right now, and complete tasks, and upcoming tasks using the graphical style of Kanban boards.

 

The kanban board is an agile project management tool for visualizing work, limiting work-in-progress, and increasing flow (or efficiency). It employs cards, columns, and continuous improvement to assist technology and service teams in committing the appropriate amount of work and completing it.

 

The separated columns are linked, and tasks go from the leftmost column (future chores) to the rightmost column (completed tasks). The Kanban system uses the notion of Work in Progress to track the progress of a work cycle. WIP contains a set of parameters and a predetermined status.

 

One of the basic ideas that govern the Kanban process in Agile is limiting WIP to maintain consistent standards. The team must complete the current tasks in the specified sequence.

 

The kanban board is divided into five halves by a man named David Anderson. Visual signals, columns, work-in-progress restrictions, a commitment point, and a delivery point are all examples of these.


The kanban board is divided into five halves named Visual signals, columns, work-in-progress restrictions, a commitment point, and a delivery point

The Kanban board


Let us discuss the practices of the kanban framework in detail to understand their significance.


 

Practices of Kanban Framework:

 

  1. Visualize the flow of work: 

 

Visualizing the flow of work is the first and most important step in adopting and executing the Kanban Method. You must depict the process stages that you now utilize to provide your work or services - either on a real board or an electronic Kanban Board. 

 

Your Kanban board might be extremely basic or very extensive, depending on the complexity of your process and your work mix. After you've visualized your process, you'll be able to see the work you and your team are now accomplishing. This might be in the form of stickies or cards with various colors to represent different service classes or simply different types of work items. 


 

  1. Limit Work in Progress (use the columns): 

 

Implementing Kanban – a 'Pull-system' – requires limiting work-in-progress (WIP). Limiting WIP encourages your team to finish current work before moving on to new projects. As a result, work that is presently in progress must be finished and recognized as complete. This expands the system's capacity, allowing the team to take on more tasks. 

 

It may be difficult to determine what your WIP limits should be at first. You may begin with no WIP restrictions. As your team begins to utilize Kanban, you may start with no WIP limitations and merely watch the first work in progress. Once you've gathered enough information, set WIP limits equal to half the average WIP for each step of the process (each column on your Kanban board).

 

Many teams begin by setting a WIP Limit of 1 to 1.5 times the number of people working on a particular stage. Limiting WIP and putting WIP limits on each column of the board not only helps team members finish what they're working on before moving on to new tasks, but also communicates to customers and other stakeholders that any team has a limited capacity to do work and that they should plan carefully what work they assign to the team.


 

  1. Manage the Flow:

 

After you've established the first two principles, the essence of your Kanban system is managing and increasing flow. By showing the many steps of the workflow and the state of work in each stage, a Kanban system aids inflow management. You'll see either a smooth flow within WIP limits or work building up when something is held up and begins to take up capacity, depending on how effectively the process is specified and WIP Limits are configured. 

 

All of this has an impact on how fast work moves from the beginning to the finish of the process (some people call it a value stream). Kanban assists your team in analyzing the system and making changes to enhance flow to shorten the time it takes to accomplish each task.

 

Looking at the intermediate wait stages and seeing how long work items sit in these "handoff phases" is an important part of this process of watching your work and resolving/ removing bottlenecks. As you'll see, minimizing the amount of time spent in these waiting phases is critical to lowering Cycle Time. Your team's task delivery becomes smoother and more predictable as you enhance flow.


 

  1. Make Process Policies Explicit: 

 

It's a good idea to describe and visualize your policies for how you accomplish your job as part of visualizing your process. You provide a common ground for all participants to understand how to conduct any sort of work in the system by defining specific process rules. 

 

Board policies, swim lane policies, and policies for each column are all possible. There may be anything from a checklist of actions to be completed for each work item type to entry-exit criteria for each column to anything else that helps team members effectively control the flow of work on the board. 


 

Kanban Framework vs. Scrum Framework

 

Another well-known Agile project framework is Scrum. Kanban and Scrum share similar concepts and aspirations since they are both based on the Agile project methodology. Collaboration, process improvement, and breaking projects down into stages are all encouraged in both frameworks. There are, nevertheless, important distinctions.

 

The primary distinction between Kanban and Scrum is that the former is a technique and the latter is a framework. Kanban creates a continuous delivery paradigm in which teams give value as soon as it's available, while Scrum arranges work into Sprints. Whether you choose Kanban or Scrum depends on the nature of your process; nevertheless, Kanban provides a more tailored approach, whilst Scrum follows established criteria.


 

BottomLine: When should you use Kanban?

 

Kanban's adaptability stems from its simplicity. It might be used by a content editor as well as an e-commerce company. Kanban may be utilized in any knowledge work scenario, but it's especially useful when work comes unexpectedly and/or when you want to deliver work as soon as it's available rather than waiting for new work items to arrive. Kanban is best suited if your priorities change on the fly and ad hoc activities might occur at any moment since you can add tasks to any work stage. When there are no iterations, it may also be utilized.

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