How To Increase Your Team Productivity With Kanban
In the fast-paced modern world, client needs change frequently, to-do lists grow uncontrollably and your hard-working team can feel pushed to its limits. Becoming more productive – without overloading your team – is the core goal of effective project management.
The Kanban method is a straightforward and intuitive system to streamline your workflows, spot problem areas and stop your team from getting overwhelmed by new requests. In this guide, we’ll show you how to use Kanban to become more productive making continuous, incremental changes.
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a system for managing the flow of work items through a process. Meaning “visual signal” in Japanese, the method provides a way to visually organize your workflow. Kanban boards let your team quickly see how work is progressing and makes problem areas visible at a glance.
Kanban principles can be applied to almost any workflow to increase productivity – without overhauling your team structure or way of working. Big, sweeping changes in management often face pushback and poor team engagement. Instead, the Kanban method suggests small changes that build upon each other. Each change is easy for your team to absorb, your processes become more productive, and a culture of continuous improvement is achieved.
How to use Kanban to become more productive
Visualize your work
Humans naturally find visual data easier to understand than text or figures. This principle is at the heart of the Kanban method. The first step to implementing Kanban is to create a Kanban board.
The Kanban board has two main components – columns and cards. Each column of the board represents a stage of your process, starting with “To-Do” and ending with “Done”. Each card represents a work item or task. Cards move from left to right as they go through your process. Visualizing your workflow highlights tasks falling behind and draws attention to bottlenecks forming.
Manage your flow
Keeping a smooth flow of work free from obstacles is key to increasing productivity. In traditional project management systems, work is pushed from management onto the team. This leads to teams getting overwhelmed with changing demands and struggling to keep up. With Kanban, work is pulled into the process by the team – but only when they have the capacity to do so.
To stop teams from facing overburden, implement work in progress limits for all stages of your process. Once a process stage is full, no new tasks are allowed to be pulled in until an outstanding task has been finished. This brings multiple productivity benefits. First, limiting the number of work items in progress stops tasks being neglected or forgotten – teams stay focused on finishing what has been started, rather than starting new tasks. Secondly, it significantly reduces time lost to context switching. Multitasking may appear more efficient, but changing focus mid-task actually causes at least 1-5 minutes of “lost” time per switch.
Is your team struggling to complete too many tasks at the same time? When tasks take too long to complete, the best course of action is to reduce your work in progress limits. While it may feel uncomfortable if less work is started, the tasks in play will get finished faster.
Analyze productivity metrics
Always remember “what gets measured gets managed”. Relying on gut feeling and guesswork is not a reliable way to increase productivity in the workplace. Kanban uses a system of productivity metrics to track and analyze trends in output.
The most important productivity metrics are cycle time and throughput. Cycle time measures the time taken from when a task is pulled in to your process to when it is completed. Throughput measures how many tasks have been delivered in a certain time period. Together, these metrics represent how effective you are at delivering value to your customers.
Kanban graphs are essential for accurate data analysis. The method uses a number of charts such as cycle time scatterplot, throughput histogram and cumulative flow diagram to present your productivity data. These charts show how your productivity metrics change over time and let you spot issues in your process before they become bottlenecks.
The question of how to become more productive can be answered without buying expensive software, hiring a bunch of new people or completely overhauling your management style. With Kanban principles, you can start making effective changes today.