What is Kanban?

As you may have guessed, this is another Japanese manufacturing methodology that is used in different situations (what would the World be without the Japanese).

Originally, Kanban had been created by Toyota as an Industrial manufacturing methodology that consists on tracking all the components that make up a car, by assigning them a “Card” that was exchanged between the suppliers and the Assembler-Client (Toyota).

These cards were tracked down by means of a billboard.

Kanban, literally mean “Billboard” in Japanese.

* We have worked with several industries and the best and more professional ones, employed the Kanban system.

Years went by and, since this methodology had given impressive results, people started to apply it outside the manufacturing chains.

Today, we all know the Kanban method as a way of tracking every task that has to be done within a certain Project.

Some People think that Kanban consists on just writing down everything on a Post-It.

We talked about how tracking down the different issues you may find in “Success through organization“, in “8 Disciplines method” or “Problem Solving“.

This method, however is a little bit different:

  • It is designed to track important tasks that need to be done, rather than issues/problems you may find.
  • You proactively decide which activities must be tracked down. 

Here, we’ll talk about this last Kanban concept, not the “Classic” manufacturing card-tracking system.

  • At the end of this Page, you’ll find different examples of Kanban methodology applied to: e-commerce, Blogging and Programming sectors.

Our professional experience with Kanban

Google is full of information about Kanban, its origin, main pillars, etc.

We have applied Kanban organization methods a “thousand times” in different projects we have developed so far.

Hence, we want to share with you how can you benefit from it with a practical approach.

We will propose you the easiest and most simple approach, based on:

  • Tasks to do.
  • Tasks being done.
  • Tasks done.
  • … And who must develop each task.

Classic simple Kanban Scheme.

You can develop much more complex Kanban schemes, but trust us:

  • The more complex the Kanban is, the less interest will have the team members to do it.

Before starting to explain how would we implement a Kanban method in your projects, lets explain: Why is it so important?

Why is Kanban so important?

We’ll explain our professional experience with Kanban:

As we have told you several times, we have experience in restructuring broken companies.

That means that you have to “learn and command” quickly:

  • You have to learn everything in few weeks, before the company enters in defaults.
  • It is extremely important to find out quickly whether the company worth it or not, before investing a single euro.
  • During this time, you have to control everything perfectly.
    • Each expense must be completely justified.
  • Lot of people surrounding you will know certain things much better than you do.

Then, as soon as we implement a Kanban task tracking-method, everybody find it useless:

  • “We all know perfectly what we have to do”. – Everybody says.
  • “If you all had done everything so perfectly, you would not be broke”. – Our usual (and easy) answer.

After 3 – 4 weeks, when people start realizing how much the project is moving forward, they tend to be “loyal” to Kanban.

As soon as you start tracking down systematically all the tasks that need to be done, people start realizing how inefficiently you had been working in the past.

Moreover, if you are leading a project, you’ll find it much easier by following a Kanban methodology.

When to Implement Kanban

It depends on whether you work on a Team or alone.

When working on a Team, Kanban methodology should be mandatory since:

  • You’ll be able to track everybody’s dedication to the project.
  • The project will move forward much faster.
  • You’ll be able to tie the “Proactive Dumb” team member down.

If you are working on your own, we recommend you to adopt the Kanban methodology unless you’re already a very organized person.

  • Otherwise, give it a chance: you can improve your results with it.

 

Being said that, what should you take into account when implementing this methodology?

How Implementing Kanban in 3 steps

As we have mentioned before, Kanban is based on classifying all the tasks that a certain project comprises, according to their status:

  • Tasks to be done.
  • Tasks in progress.
  • Tasks done.

We’ll propose you 3 simple steps to follow in order to implement successfully this methodology:

  1. Identify the different Tasks to be done.
  2. Assign properly these tasks.
  3. Establish a “tracking” protocol.

 

Next, we’ll give you some advices for each one of these Steps:

1. Identify the different Tasks to be done.

It is simple but not always easy.

Here are some advices in order to identify properly which are the Tasks you should track down:

  • Move always from more to less importance.
    • The first week, you should assign just the more important vital tasks.
    • Next weeks you can start taking care of less important issues.
  • Take into account the relation between the different tasks.
    • Some tasks can only be done after others.
      • For example: installing a PC program should be done after having the hardware necessary for it.
  • Don’t try to solve everything “at once”.
      • This is an organic method; you’ll find out new important task as you move the Project forward.
      • Don’t expect to find them all the first time you list them.

This last point is very important:

  • This is a “living” tool; as you move forward, you’ll discover new important tasks that need to be done and that are even more important that the ones you initially contemplated.

Apollo 13 Kanban Task-priority example

If you have not seen the movie, you have a real problem (Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris and Bill Paxton… nothing else to say).

The Apollo 13th original mission was reaching the Moon.

  • NASA had been preparing everything during years to accomplish this ambitious goal.

However, something went wrong and the Space Ship got terribly damaged.

  • The live of the crew was in serious danger.

Suddenly, from one minute to other, their priorities changed completely.

  • Their main goal was not reaching the Moon anymore, but bringing the crew back alive.

We showed you this interesting example in order you to understand what we have just mentioned before:

  • How essential Tasks to may change during your Project’s lifetime.

 

Now, one of the most “delicate” steps: assigning these Tasks.

2. Task assignation in Kanban

Once you have the Main Tasks identified, is time to decide who will be responsible of developing each one of them.

At that moment, everybody start to “sweat” usually because there is a Task you don’t like or you know nothing about.

We’ll give a very good advice:

Before assigning the Tasks, all the team members should (as long as possible) share their main preferences.

  • You can’t imagine how easy can it be sometimes by just asking about each member’s preferences.

As long as possible, you should guarantee that everybody is developing the Task they like the most or at least, the one they know better.

3. Establish a "Tracking" protocol

This depends absolutely on the Project you are developing:

  • A simple minor improvement.
  • An important Project with a million dollar budget.
  • Sending someone to the Moon (like in the Apollo 13 example). etc.

But one thing will be necessary for all of these examples:

  • Having a “tracking protocol”.

This protocol must establish:

  • How often these Tasks must be checked.
  • Dates for the Tasks to be completed.
  • How many Tasks can be done by each group member.

Summarizing, you have to take “time” into account. Otherwise you won’t be able to establish how quickly is the project moving forward… or backwards.

 

Now, we’ll give some examples about what a Kanban methodology should look like.

Kanban practical examples

* We are not experts in these economic sectors, so take these examples just as what they are intended to be: just examples.

Kanban applied to an e-commerce business

Imagine that you are starting an e-commerce business on your own.

Your first week Kanban billboard could look something like the picture above (of course, this is a brief example; you should include much more things, but as a first approach is not bad at all).

Maybe Next week, you could start:

  • Establishing the different product’s prices.
  • Establishing the Marketing campaign.
  • etc.

This approach would be much better than “just starting” without any plan.

Blogging with Kanban methodology

Now, you are a Blogger that is absolutely decided to make a living from it.

  • As you can see in the picture above, you already have written 150 Posts, and you also have 5.000 pageviews per month.

In order to monetize your Blog you established as your next goals:

  • Start placing some Ads in your Website.
  • Start writing an e-Book.
  • Sell side-products related with the Topics you talk about in your Blog.

Next time you update your Tasks, you may:

  • Start writing the e-book (about the Topic you previously chose).
  • Set 200 Posts as your new target.
  • Start selling some side-products. etc.

Kanban programmer example

This last example shows how could be a Kanban meant to help a Programmer to organize his job.

As you can appreciate, the “fictional” programmer has taken into account that he should code the Main Menu, before the Side Menu.

Another interesting point, not only on this example but also in all the examples shown, is that sometimes, the most important Task is just establishing what to do next:

  • Before coding the Side Menu, you should establish how would it be.
  • In the previous example, before writing the e-book, the Blogger had to choose a proper Topic.

Summarizing

Kanban methodology may seem a bit simple yet it is a very powerful tool that may boost your productivity when properly employed.

Although there are different approaches, it is essentially based on classifying the tasks into 3 categories:

  • Tasks to be done.
  • Tasks being done.
  • Tasks done.

When doing it you must take into account that:

  • The “Tasks to be done” will be modified during the Project’s life.
    • Don’t try to establish them all in the first analysis.
      • Some of them will just appear at certain point when nobody expected.
  • Some team members are better for developing certain Tasks.
      • Either because they like those tasks or because they know them better.
  • Establishing a proper “tracking protocol” is essential
      • With dates, frequencies and deadlines.

We encourage you at least, to give Kanban methodology a try:

  • It has been proven to be very helpful in thousands of companies, and it takes nothing to start implementing it, just your will (… and an Excel sheet).

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