What is Kanban – and how it can help get more done, in less time

Girl working at a Kanban board.

Are you looking for an effective way to boost your productivity and increase the output of your company? If so, Kanban is the answer. Kanban has been transforming the way businesses across the globe work for nearly eight decades! Still staying current and evolving with changing business needs, this simple yet powerful tool can help you and your company switch gear – get more done with less effort. In this article, we take a closer look at Kanban and explore how it can help you and your company get more done.


What is Kanban – and how does it work?

Kanban is a popular agile project management methodology that helps teams to visualize their work, identify bottlenecks, and continuously improve their processes. It’s based on Lean manufacturing principles and was initially developed by Toyota in the 1940s.

The basic idea behind Kanban is to visualize your workflow on a board, typically divided into columns representing different stages of your process. Each task or work item is represented by a card, which moves from one column to the next as it progresses through your workflow.

The columns on your board can be customized to match your team’s unique process, but they typically include stages like “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Done”. The key is to limit the number of tasks that can be in progress at any one time, which helps to prevent overload and reduce the risk of bottlenecks and capacity overloads.

Like Lean Six Sigma, Kanban also emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement, which means that your team should regularly review your process and make changes to improve efficiency and productivity. You can use metrics like lead time (the time it takes for a task to move through your workflow) and cycle time (the time it takes to complete a task once it’s started) to identify areas for improvement.

One of the benefits of using Kanban is that it’s simple and flexible and can be adapted to suit the needs of any team or project – across all industries! It’s also easy to start, as all you need is a board and some cards.


Who does use Kanban?

Kanban can be used by any team or organization that wants to improve its workflow and productivity. It’s particularly popular in agile software development, where it’s used to manage tasks and track bugs, but it’s also used in manufacturing, healthcare, marketing, and other industries. Any team with a process with multiple stages and tasks can benefit from using Kanban to visualize their workflow and identify areas for improvement. Therefore, its flexible framework can be used across teams and industries!


More than half of Agile Teams are leveraging Kanban

Kanban has been around for nearly 80 years – but it’s growing in popularity, especially in recent years. According to the State of Agile 2022 by Digital.ai, about 50% of respondents presently use Kanban. If we examine the poll results over the past three years, Kanban use has skyrocketed: from 7% in the 14th study to 56% in the most recent poll. Do you know all the differences between Kanban and Scrum? Find them in this article: Scrum vs. Kanban – Which is best for you?

Let’s keep reading to discover why many individuals and teams leverage Kanban!


How is Kanban different from other project management tools?

Unlike other project management tools, Kanban is a visual system focusing on workflow management and continuous improvement. Here are some key ways that Kanban differs from other project management tools.

Visual approach

Kanban is a visual system that uses cards or sticky notes to represent tasks or work items. These cards are then placed on a board that represents the workflow. This visual approach makes it easy to see the status of each work item and identify bottlenecks or areas for improvement.

Focus on workflow management

Kanban puts a strong emphasis on workflow management. The goal is to create a smooth and efficient flow of work through the system from start to finish. This is achieved by limiting work in progress, identifying and resolving bottlenecks, and continuously improving the process.

Flexible process

Kanban is a flexible process that can be adapted to fit the needs of different teams and projects. Unlike other project management methodologies, there are no strict rules or guidelines. This flexibility allows teams to experiment with different approaches and find the best solution for their needs, making Kanban a methodology applicable across all companies and industries.


Kanban board being used both on computer and phone by a man.


The Benefits of Kanban

Cost reduction

According to a study by Logrono and Zu’bi, implementing Kanban can create a cost reduction of 69%. The study also found that the waste produced lowered to nearly 0%, and the out-of-stock percentage decreased to 1%! This is because Kanban helps teams focus on completing only the necessary tasks and helps them avoid over-committing or taking on too many tasks simultaneously. Additionally, with Kanban’s visual representation of tasks and the ability to quickly identify bottlenecks, teams can quickly identify and address problems, ultimately reducing out-of-stock related issues.

Improved Visibility

Kanban provides an overview of tasks that need to be done, which allows everyone on the team to keep track of progress and stay organized. Teams who implemented Kanban boards experienced an average improvement in visibility of 78%. Kanban boards also increased transparency and accountability by giving team members a better understanding of their roles, responsibilities, and project progress. With improved visibility, teams could identify problems and obstacles early on and take corrective action.

Reduced Project Lead & Cycle Time by up to 300%

Kanban has proven to be an excellent tool for reducing Project Lead and Cycle Time. In particular, some teams have recorded a reduced cycle time of 300%. These results suggest that Kanban effectively reduces project lead times and increases throughput rates when appropriately implemented.

Increased Efficiency, Collaboration, and Communication

Kanban allows for more flexible and iterative approaches to projects, freeing up resources and allowing teams to focus on the most critical items first. By doing so, Kanban encourages team collaboration and communication, leading to a more efficient workforce.

Improved Accountability

The visual nature of Kanban makes it easier to increase accountability and helps teams identify and address any issues quickly. The improved visibility of workflows and tasks through Kanban boards also helps teams easily track their progress and stay on target. If you want to be like one of those teams, consider becoming a certified Kanban professional.


How To Implement Kanban In Your Company

To get started with Kanban, there are a few steps you need to take – as already said, you need a board and some cards only!

1. Develop A Process Map

Take some time to identify all the steps involved in your process so you can create a visual representation of it on your Kanban board.

2. Create a Team Board

Create a virtual or physical board that will be the hub for your team’s activities, so everyone can easily access it whenever needed.

3 . Establish Workflows

Define how tasks should move through each column on your board so you clearly understand what must be done at each stage.

4 . Set Limits On Work In Progress (WIP)

Limiting WIP helps prevent work overload by ensuring that every task is given enough attention before moving on to the next one in line, thus avoiding bottlenecks along the way.

5. Track Performance and Make Adjustments

Monitor your team’s performance over time so you can identify areas where improvements can be made or flow streamlined even further for better results in the future.

6. Automate where Possible

Automating repetitive tasks frees up time for other, more important activities, so consider using tools for simple automation needs or APIs for more advanced automation needs. By mixing a cost and time-saving methodology like Kanban with the power of automation, you can boost the efficiency of your workflow to unprecedented levels. Check out our article on the importance of automation if you don’t want to miss out on this.


Wrapping up: time to gain a crucial advantage with Kanban

As you can see, implementing Kanban into your team and company has excellent potential for increasing productivity and getting more done with less effort expended. It’s a flexible and reliable valuable methodology for all teams and companies – helpful in managing a constant flow of work and overcoming scrum’s efficiency in small teams.

By following the steps we’ve outlined, you can start reaping the benefits of this powerful method sooner. Ultimately, this will help you remain competitive in today’s ever-changing business landscape.

Get ready to enhance the full Kanban potential: become a certified Kanban professional today!