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Understanding Lean Kanban: Exploring the Kanban Board and Kanban Card

09 Sep 2022
Understanding Lean Kanban: Exploring the Kanban Board and Kanban Card

Lean Kanban methodology is a set of principles and practices that aim to improve business quality and efficiency. It can be used in any organisation and is especially well-suited for fast-paced and high-volume environments.

The lean methodology is helpful in various areas, from manufacturing to software development and healthcare.

Kanban is a lean management approach that gives a visual overview of the process from start to finish, which helps manage workflow by showing exactly who is working on what and where resources are needed most.

Lean Methodology Helps to Improve Workflow

The Kanban Methodology uses cards to visualise the workflow. As a result, the Kanban Methodology is a simple and effective way to improve your workflow and can be used in organisations of any size.

Lean Kanban project workflow

Lean-Kanban combines the Kanban approach in Lean management. Undoubtedly, Lean-Kanban is a system that helps you to streamline your work and improve efficiency. So by using a Kanban board, you can see what needs to be done and who is working on specific tasks. This method makes it easy to identify bottlenecks and potential issues so you can address them quickly.

Using the Kanban approach in Lean management aims to improve project efficiency, team communication, and the continuous flow of product delivery. With a Kanban system, teams execute their activities and improve how they do them simultaneously. This capability to identify issues and practice continuous improvement is an application of the Lean-Kanban method to improve efficiency in project execution.

Lean-Kanban is worth considering if you're looking for a way to improve your project management comparatively. It's simple to use and can significantly impact your productivity.

Advantages of using Lean Kanban

The advantages of using Lean Kanban are:

  • There is more time to ensure that product development is optimum. Using Lean Kanban, planning time is shortened because the team emphasises building a project in more minor phases.
  • Team members create more chances of predicting when they will deliver tasks based on project performance through various delivery metrics.
  • Team members have fewer risks due to shorter feedback loops and a phased approach to project development.

Below we will explain more about Lean and Kanban as unique methodologies.  

What is Lean Kanban Methodology?

Lean Principles

The famous Japanese motor corporation Toyota developed the Lean Methodology in the 1930s in Japan. During that time, Toyota needed to improve its system of product delivery. The company's managers invented a new project management system for manufacturing and called it the Toyota production system.

Later, when the Toyota production system gained popularity worldwide, it was called Lean manufacturing.

In 2003, the lean manufacturing system was used in software development consequently, it emerged as a new project management methodology. Since then, it has been adopted by organisations across various industries.

At its core, Lean is focused on creating value while minimising waste, which it identifies in three categories by their Japanese names:

  • Muda: wasted time, resources or effort that don't add value for the end user
  • Mura: overproduction and excess inventory accumulated through an irregular workflow
  • Muri: overburdening of employees at any stage of a workflow

Planning, Implementation & Feedback Cycle

This goal is achieved through continuous planning, implementation, and feedback cycles. Indeed, Lean businesses strive to constantly improve their processes and products, making them more efficient and effective.

While Lean principles can be applied to any type of organisation, they are particularly well-suited to manufacturing and other production-based businesses. This is because Lean focuses on optimising workflow from start to finish.

Lean businesses can reduce waste, improve quality, and increase efficiency. Toyota, Nike, Caterpillar Inc., Kimberley-Clark Corporation, Intel, Parker Hannifin and John Deere are some companies using lead management.

The core concepts of the Lean methodology are Respect for people and Continuous improvement. Kanban’s highly visual workflow management approach to work gives transparency, communication, collaboration and clarity. This is how Kanban enables continuous improvement and respect for people.

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How Lean Kanban Enables Continuous Improvement & Respect for People?

Lean Kanban- Value delivery

When the word Kanban is used in production, it refers to what, when and how to produce.

Kanban Principles

Principles of the Kanban System: 

  • Visualise work. 
  • Limit work in process. 
  • Focus on the flow. 
  • Continuous Improvement

Toyota Corporation: Kanban Project Management Methodology

Toyota Corporation also invented the Kanban project management methodology. Taiichi Ohno at the Toyota Corporation developed the Kanban project management methodology in the 1940s as a mechanism to control Just-In-Time (JIT) production and manufacturing processes.

When Toyota was undergoing a major loss, Taiichi Ohno emerged with the concept of producing what was needed and only when needed.

Kanban aimed to optimise the manufacturing process by regulating the supply of raw materials. At the onset of the 21st century, the Kanban methodology was used for software development. Now it is one of the agile methods.

Kanban is an effective visual workflow management method that facilitates organisations with the visibility, metrics and focus required to manage work and people. It emphasises a straightforward path to project workflow through Kanban visualisation techniques.

Visibility: Kanban Board

The first step in implementing Kanban in the software development life cycle (SDC) is to visualise and plot the stages that any work item passes through in the project.

The Kanban board is the core component of the Kanban method. Karban board is usually a digital project management tool where you visualise all work items.

The column shows various steps in a workflow and cards for each project moving through the workflow. It is divided into three columns, i.e. Requested, In Progress, and Done, representing different process stages.

The Kanban system ensures a significant reduction in waste associated with non-value-adding activities such as overproduction, futile motion, defects, overprocessing, and waiting time. So this ensures continuous improvement and respect for people.

Metrics: Kanban Card

One of the key steps towards continuous improvement is monitoring Progress and measuring performance for tracking your projects and making your processes more efficient over time.

You chart your process visually on a board and then flow cards on that board. Lean Kanban methods collect matrics as cards move across the board.

Kanban cards are a vital component of the Kanban System. It signals the need to move material within a manufacturing or production facility or materials from an outside supplier to the production facility.

The card indicates the signal that there is a depletion of product, parts etc. When received, the Kanban will accelerate the replenishment of products. The Kanban card signals more consumption and this demand for more products.

Burndown Chart, Lead and Cycle Time Chart, and Cumulative Flow Chart are Kanban metrics for tracking Progress.

WIP in Kanban: Work in Progress & Focus

Multiple work activities are usually required to be done, and Kanban helps team members focus on a single task at a time rather than getting caught up between multiple work items.

The Work in Progress limits, referred to as WIP, is a core component of Kanban. It limits the amount of work the team takes at each work stage. The WIP helps ensure that the team focus on finishing tasks before beginning the new work. WIP limits help increase the team's productivity.

When the attention is divided between multiple tasks, productivity might slow down and affect work quality. With a focus on the vital task based on the goals set by the team, Kanban gives you the power to focus on the things that matter most.

Kanban is a lean management approach that enables continuous improvement and respect for people.

The Kanban approach is built on

  • Continuous improvement
  • Respect for people
  • Engagement

Kanban: A Flexible & Adaptable Approach

The Kanban approach helps organisations to continuously improve their processes and respect their people by engaging them in the improvement process. It is a flexible and adaptable approach that can be tailored to the specific needs of each organisation.

If you strive to improve project efficiency, team communication, and continuous flow of product delivery,  Lean Kanban is a methodology for you.