Sticking little pink cards on a wall to keep up on every task for your software project development might be a way to use the Kanban method. Kanban allows agile teams to maintain an incremental workflow to deliver products more quickly and efficiently. But for Kanban to become a real asset for your company, it is important to understand how the Kanban philosophy truly works and what are the best tools to make the most out of it.
What is the Kanban method?
Kanban, a Japanese word commonly translated as “signboard” or “cards”, is an Agile method from 2007, originating from the automotive industry. With an increased focus on efficiency and by harnessing advances in computing technology, key players within the software industry quickly realized how Kanban could be used to positively change the ways in which products and services were delivered. But more than just sticking cards on a board, Kanban ensures the essential stages of agile project management by allowing continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI / CD), but also stimulates collaboration between team members. Kanban allows you to focus on customer needs and quickly deliver better quality products; in other words, to be truly Agile. Generally speaking, Kanban allows you to focus on customer needs and deliver better quality products quickly; in other words, to be really Agile.
Stop Starting, Start Finishing
Kanban, one of the most popular project management tools and methods like Scrum, is about evolution, not revolution. It hinges on the fundamental truth that you must know where you are before you can get to your desired destination: you must end your current task to move on to the next.
The basic idea of Kanban is visualizing every piece of work on a board. Basically, a Kanban board helps coworkers organize their workflow as a team, allowing everybody to have a clear vision of what’s to be done (To do), what’s in the making (Work in Progress) and what’s been done already (Done). This way, the Kanban board turns into a central informational hub. All tasks are visible, and they never get lost, which brings transparency to the whole work process. Every team member can have a quick update on the status of every project or task.
The 4 principles of Kanban
START WITH WHAT YOU DO NOW
The Kanban method does not prescribe a certain setup or procedure. This means you can easily implement Kanban on top of your existing workflow or process. Kanban allows teams to highlight issues that need to be addressed without disrupting what is already successfully being done; it suits every type of organization and applies to any kind of team, making it very easy to get started. No need to change drastically the way you work, you can start right away!
AGREE TO PURSUE INCREMENTAL, EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE
The Kanban method is designed to meet minimal resistance and to encourage continuous, small incremental and evolutionary changes to the current process. No drastic changes in sight, just a smooth way to drive teams to meet their goals one step at a time!
RESPECT THE CURRENT PROCESSES, ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES
Kanban does not prohibit change, nor does it encourage more than it needs to be. This method actually recognizes that existing processes, roles, responsibilities, and titles have value. It is designed to promote and encourage incremental, logical, changes without triggering a fear of change itself.
ENCOURAGE LEADERSHIP AT ALL LEVELS
This is the newest Kanban principle: it reminds you that some of the best leadership comes from everyday acts of people on the front line of their teams. You don’t need to be a team lead or an executive to be a leader. Everyone needs to be fostering a mindset of continual improvement to reach optimal performance as a team/department/company.
Core practices of Kanban
VISUALIZE THE WORKFLOW
The important thing is to make all the stages of the project visible, even bottlenecks and queues; leading instantly to increased communication and collaboration between team members!
LIMIT WORK IN PROGRESS
All the magic of the Kanban method is the limitation of work in progress. This process unlocks the full potential of Kanban, enabling teams to deliver quality work faster than ever in a healthier, more sustainable environment.
FOCUS ON FLOW
A consistent flow of work is essential for faster and more reliable delivery, bringing greater value to your customers, team, and organization. It is therefore essential to check that there are no blocked tasks that would prevent moving forward. The fluidity of the workflow must therefore be at the heart of concerns!
Continuous improvement is a Lean improvement technique that helps streamline workflows, saving time and money across the enterprise. The Kanban approach is based on this principle and therefore encourages the constant search for improvement, on all scales!
Why use an Open Source Kanban tool?
Kanban was created to meet real customer demand, to promote “just in time”, rather than delivering products to the market without meeting a real need. It allows teams to change priorities, reorganize or change focus very quickly: to be Agile. To optimize all the advantages of this method – and as with any change of process in a company – it is important to be accompanied by the right tools. If Kanban does not seem to require a specific tool, it’s easy to see how it could help overcome any limit that might occur in your company. The Kanban method is made for teams, but not all teams work the same way; in fact, many teams are distributed in multi-sites.
In this context, the use of open source project management software – or of an Enterprise Agile Planning tool (EAP) – becomes essential to:
- Provide teams with a real 100% agile collaborative work environment and bring efficiency to projects
- Favor long term thinking by investing in a flexible and constantly evolving tool
- Keep your freedom with an Open Source license (discover here the strategic advantages of Enterprise Open Source)
- Deploy agility at enterprise scale with scalable tool
Since we are fully aware that introducing a new tool – for instance to support a large-scale agile transformation – can be quite challenging even within the most innovative enterprises, we are sharing in a dedicated article 5 tips to ease the adoption of a new agile tool.