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Kanban Board: It works that easy + tips & templates

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Kanban (Japanese "kan" = signal, "ban" = card) is the horizontal, Japanese adaptation of the classic to-do list. This is enjoying growing popularity, since the workflow can be better planned, monitored and controlled through Kanban. The aim of the Kanban board is to visualize project processes and tasks - in clear columns with individual entries that can be processed one after the other.

So you can see at a glance what needs to be done and in which areas problems need to be solved. The Kanban Board can be used and designed in many different ways - in order to optimally adapt it and improve the results. Here you can find out everything you need to know about the Kanban Board: how it works, what advantages and disadvantages it has and which software you can use ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

How does a Kanban board work?

Kanban was developed in the 1940s by the automobile company Toyota in order to reduce inventories and bring the production processes into a more even rhythm. Today the Kanban Board is assigned to lean management, agile project management and the SCRUM method. The Kanban principle is often used in IT and human resources, but it is now also enjoying increasing popularity in other areas to keep track of projects and processes.

The whole thing works simply in the form of a blackboard, simply called a board from the English. The basic version of the Kanban board is divided into three columns, each of which has sticky notes or index cards with the individual tasks. The three columns are structured as follows:

task (To Do) Here, all necessary processes and tasks are first recorded. This is similar to the classic to-do list. In the first column of the Kanban board, all pending tasks that are due for an employee or a team in the near future are pinned.

Machining (Doing) As soon as the first work has been carried out and implementation has begun, the respective card moves to this area. This means that you can see at a glance what is currently being worked on and which projects are currently being implemented.

Done (Done) A sticky note only reaches the last column of the Kanban board when the tasks on it have really been completely processed. This means complete completion, including possible final controls or corrections.

Example and template for a Kanban board

Goals of the Kanban principle

The aim of the Kanban board is to make the workflow visible. In this way, any bottlenecks can be identified and rectified at an early stage and the value chain can be managed in a cost-effective manner. But other goals are also pursued with a Kanban board. This includes…

  • the overview to keep track of the numerous, mostly parallel, work steps.
  • the Visualizationwhich process is currently at which stage.
  • the optimization of cooperation.
  • the increase the communication.

Kanban is ideal for making processes within a team transparent. Ideally, everyone involved receives all relevant information at any time by looking at the Kanban board.

➠ Who's doing what?
➠ Who is how far?
➠ Who is behind the deadline?
➠ Where do you need support?
➠ Who can help?

The 6 Kanban Practices

David Anderson, one of the founders of agile software development, described and six practices that companies incorporate into the way they work when using Kanban. In the following we present these 6 Kanban practices that, according to Anderson, are particularly effective when implementing the first steps with Kanban:

Visualization

The individual process steps in the value chain are often made visible with a whiteboard. This is designed with Post-its to form a Kanban board on which the columns represent the individual stations. The individual tasks, features, user stories and the like, which move from left to right on the Kanban board in the course of the process, are on the sticky notes (optionally also index cards).

Limitation

To ensure a smooth workflow, the number of tickets (Work in Progress - WiP) that can be processed at a station at the same time is limited. If a station is currently working on three tickets and this station has been limited to three tickets, it is not allowed to accept a further fourth ticket, even if the working station could deliver another. This procedure is called the pull principle: each station picks up its work from the previous station instead of simply passing on finished work to the next station. So every station also has the chance to work through its tasks.

control

Individual areas such as queues, cycle times and throughput are checked in the entire Kanban process. This makes it possible to determine where the work is well organized and where improvements may be necessary. It is also easier to plan, so that commitments and reliability are increased.

Clarification

In order to ensure that all parties involved make the same assumptions and principles, all rules must be laid down. This includes, for example, definition of terms, meanings of the respective columns, and clear rules as to when a ticket moves on on the Kanban board and clarification of who draws when, under what conditions the next ticket is drawn from the waiting list.

feedback

Kanban is a flexible model, so there is constant feedback and reviews. The aim of Kanban is to see where bottlenecks are occurring - a feedback system is being introduced for this. With the help of feedback, each station can see where things are going and where support may be needed.

improvement

As explained in the previous point, feedback is an important part of Kanban. The introduced feedback mechanisms lead to improvements in that some stations can be streamlined or supplemented - depending on the backlog or need.

Advantages and disadvantages of Kanban

A Kanban board is not a rocket science, but that doesn't make the method any less effective. There is a simple explanation for its effectiveness: The clear presentation of the workflow.

Another important plus point for many teams is that visualization using a Kanban board makes time-consuming and annoying meetings superfluous.

Advantages of a Kanban board

  • The visualization of the project process allows problems to be identified based on the accumulation of tickets.
  • Some meetings become redundant, which can save time.
  • Kanban can be combined with other methods such as Scrum.
  • By limiting the number of tickets to a maximum, congestion is avoided and the processes remain manageable.
  • If the Kanban board is installed in the office, it provides a basis for regular exchange between the team.
  • Cooperation on other tasks is also promoted in the long term.
  • At the same time, Kanban encourages people to work independently, as tasks that are available at any time can be started.

In addition to the numerous advantages, a Kanban board naturally also has some disadvantages and weaknesses. The classic form of a board is only possible in teams that are permanently present in the office. Anyone who works together digitally or in teams that bridge large distances needs software or an online solution. This can still be solved, but there are also other disadvantages:

Disadvantages of a Kanban board

  • Anyone can access the Kanban board - tickets can be lost as a result, which leads to process delays and annoyance.
  • Since Kanban reveals weak points, underperformers can be identified - this can lead to the rejection of the method by the employees.
  • Kanban is more suitable for smaller teams, as otherwise the clarity suffers.
  • Kanban boards are not suitable for large, long-term projects.

Customize the Kanban board

If a Kanban board is used in a team, the benefit increases over time and it is even better accepted by the employees. The reason: With increasing experience, the implementation not only works better, the Kanban board can also be developed individually and adapted to the needs.

Here, learning effects can be used to optimally design the Kanban board. There are hardly any limits to creativity. Here are some examples of how the Kanban Board can be further developed:

  • Team members are given different post-it colors so that they can be quickly assigned.
  • Notes are expanded to include additional information.
  • The priority of the tasks is shown in color.
  • Icons indicate the various projects to which the tasks belong.
  • Columns are added to introduce analysis or intermediate steps, for example.

Ideally, these impulses come from the team itself. After all, it is the employees who mainly work with the Kanban Board and therefore know best how it can be made even more efficient.

Kanban is a method that should be developed and adapted. This is the only way to get the most out of it. Learn from the application, check the implementation regularly and find out how you can optimize your Kanban board and adapt it to everyday work.

What is Personal Kanban?

Kanban initially focuses on organizing tasks and short-term projects. This allows everyday work to be organized well. But long-term projects in particular can easily get out of focus. Personal Kanban adds a perspective here.

For this purpose, each project is again noted on a card and attached to the Kanban board. In this case, however, the Personal Kanban Board covers a longer period of time. This means that you add a few more columns to your board - either weeks or months - and look into the future in perspective.

That of course makes the Kanban board a bit more complex. In order not to lose track of things with Personal Kanban, you should therefore heed the following recommendations:

  • There are never more than six projects on hold.
  • Only one project can currently be in progress.
  • Everyday tasks do not belong on a personal Kanban board have no place on the board. These belong in a normal to-do list or a separate Kanban board.

Such a personal kanban board should not be confused or equated with a normal kanban board. This variant is only used for (project) planning and control - not for the daily organization of tasks.

Kanban board software

Even if the original method of the Kanban board with slips of paper and a blackboard work, there are now many free and paid applications available to map work in progress on a Kanban board. Two of the most famous are Jira and Trello, which we therefore present to you:

Jira

Atlassian's Jira is probably the best-known web-based software that can be combined with Kanban. Originally developed as a troubleshooting platform, it is now used for project management. While Jira is generally commercial, free licenses can be obtained for open source projects, charities, and individuals. The cards can be moved in the individual columns by drag and drop. The advantage of the virtual cards from Jira is that, for example, additional information such as images, attachments or even further links can be placed on them.

Trello

This web-based application is also used for project management. Trello is already quite extensive as the free basic version and is one of the most popular Jira alternatives. Trello is also available as an app for smartphones. Any number of tickets can be added to a list, whereby the tickets can be anything: tasks, appointments or other things. You will be informed by email if a ticket is created for you.

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[Photo credit: Karrierebibel.de]