The concept of kanban revolves around managing work through the value stream by visualizing it. It relates to lean or just-in-time production, where serves as a scheduling system to tell you what, when, and how much to produce, thereby, reducing waste by regulating work in progress and maximizing value for customers.
The ability of an individual, team, or organization to use this concept in any business function in order to reap benefits such as increased throughput, reduced lead time, and improved quality of goods or services is known as their kanban skills. The ability to utilize this concept allows management of the production process such that an emphasis is placed on continual delivery without having to overburden the production team.
Why is kanban important
The concept of kanban i.e. visualizing work to bring improvement in whatever you do, is widely accepted across the organizations worldwide. This is mainly because science has proved a picture to be worth a thousand words. It is said that human brain is able to process visual information 60,000 times faster than it does text.
Utilization of the concept of kanban, therefore, enables better identification and eradication of bottlenecks, improving business operations dramatically. It helps in reducing overhead and other costs by improving work flow, increasing efficiency, and preventing over production. It also helps in serving customers better by improving responsiveness to changes in demand.
Lastly, it also helps teams to work together more effectively, thus, improving teamwork.
How to improve kanban skills
Following are the steps you can take to improve your kanban skills and system:
- Break down your flow of work and visualize it. Breaking down the flow of your work into distinctive steps makes the visualization better and easier. One way is to make one column for each step on a white board, write different tasks on different colors of sticky notes, and stik them to their respective columns on the white board. Each task shall then be moved from left to right, showing current status, before it is completed and leaves the work flow.
- Put limits on work-in-progress. Although it may take time to get our limits right, still you must begin with your best guess to put limits on that white board column where work is being performed. (Hint: no work is being performed in the ‘to-do’ list or ‘completed/done’ list).
- Use a pull system instead of pushing. Often it so happens between teams that one performs better than the other and ends up pushing work that is too much for the next team to handle. Therefore, the best solution is to adopt the pull system where the next team will ask for more work or ‘pull’ it only when they are ready for it.