Kanban is a method applied across all fields of work to help teams drive down costs and become more efficient by visualising and improving workflows. Kanban gives you the flexibility to build sustainable competitive advantage and empower your team to accomplish more tasks, faster. In this article we’ll take a look at 10 benefits of Kanban for your business.

1. Better visibility

Visualisation is an important Kanban practice, and the most recognisable feature of the methodology is the Kanban board. Every project has a backlog of tasks to get through, and a series of process states that a task must pass through before it is delivered. Using the Kanban board, everyone can instantly see how tasks are moving through the process. The simplicity of its visual presentation enables you to easily spot bottlenecks while they are forming.

Kanban board with swimlanes

2. Improved efficiency

Every project manager wishes they could get more done. Throwing extra resources at a problem is a possible solution when there’s some room in the budget, but what if you could do more with what you already have? The most obvious benefit of using Kanban is improved flow efficiency that happens shortly after the method is implemented into your organisation.

Visualising your process will highlight areas of inefficiency very quickly. Once you’ve identified your problem, it is time to start asking questions! Bottlenecks, stalled tasks and too much work in progress are clearly visible on the Kanban board. Each obstacle you eliminate makes your process smoother and more efficient.

3. Increased productivity

Improved efficiency naturally leads to the next Kanban benefit, which is increased productivity. Kanban benefits your productivity by shifting the focus from how many tasks are being worked on to how many of them are actually delivered.

In Kanban, cycle time and throughput are the key productivity metrics. Cycle time measures how long it takes for a task to pass through your entire process once it has been pulled in. Throughput measures how many tasks are delivered during a certain time period. Tracking your cycle time and throughput consistently shows you how your productivity changes over time. The faster the tasks can move through your process, the more tasks can get completed by your team!
Kanban throughput histogram

4. Preventing team overburden

Traditional project management methods rely on planning upfront, then pushing the work on to your team. This results in teams struggling with more work than they have the bandwidth for. In Kanban, team pulls tasks into the workflow only when they have the capacity to do so.

One of the core Kanban practices is imposing work in progress limits on each process state. When the WIP limit is reached, no new tasks are allowed to enter that state until another task has left. WIP limits prevent teams from working on too many tasks at the same time.

5. Increased team focus

You may think that multitasking makes you more efficient, however splitting your attention – known as context switching – comes at a cost. Context switching can cause from 5 to 30 minutes of wasted time per task, depending on the task and person involved.

With WIP limits and pull policies in place, no new tasks are allowed be pulled into a process state before another task has been finished. Kanban benefits team members by letting them focus on a single task at a time rather than having their attention split between multiple work items.

6. Reduced waste

Eliminating or reducing waste is a cornerstone of lean management. It was an integral feature of the Toyota Production System, the ancestor of modern Kanban. Waste is defined as any action that uses resources without adding value. Value refers to something that the customer is willing to pay for. Many activities would not be classed as “value-adding” according to these criteria but are nevertheless essential to delivering quality products. The area to target is nonessential waste.

Lean management forefather Taiichi Ohno identified 7 wastes to eliminate in a manufacturing environment related to time, effort and materials. In knowledge work, your waste will come in the form of effort or time. Kanban drastically benefits waste elimination by reducing waiting time – idle tasks and queuing states are prime targets.

 

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7. Flexibility

For many businesses, the switch to Agile methodologies is driven by the need for flexibility. Especially for early-stage companies, the freedom to respond swiftly and decisively to your customers’ needs and competitors’ actions is essential to successful growth.

With no prescribed phase durations, features are released as soon as they are completed. By choosing directions with a Kanban roadmap rather than relying on a rigid general project plan, project managers are free to reassess immediate priorities based on changes in the market.

In a constantly fluctuating market, your business processes need to be flexible. Responding quickly to demand is just as crucial as responding to market changes. Using Kanban gives you the flexibility to build sustainable competitive advantage.

8. Improved collaboration

Who knows the most about your process? The people working on it every day. Kanban benefits your team by encouraging frequent collaboration. From organising the priorities of the day with short daily Standup Meetings to deciding the direction of the business in Strategic Reviews, all team members are constantly being encouraged to work together and give their opinion on how to improve current processes.

The different Kanban meetings ensure that stakeholders in different areas can exchange relevant information, brainstorm solutions and collaborate on out-of-the-box ideas.

9. Improved company culture

Strong collaboration between team members, managers, stakeholders and customer leads to improved morale and an inclusive company culture. Everyone’s opinion is important and valuable.

Independence and initiative are encouraged, allowing Kanban team members to unfold their creativity and talents. A workplace culture in which the entire workforce is focused on continually improving quality, productivity, and customer satisfaction is known as a “kaizen culture”.

10. More predictability

The number one question asked of project managers… when are you going to be ready? Implementing WIP limits and ensuring the Little’s Law assumptions are met keeps your process operating as a stable system. The rate of tasks being pulled in should be roughly equal the rate of tasks leaving. A stable system is a predictable system – one that enables you to make data-driven decisions.

In order to fully experience Kanban benefits, it’s important to track historical data using a tool like Nave. Past performance data should be used to analyse your process and make accurate estimates about future delivery dates. Our data-driven forecasts set a goal as well as the probability of reaching that goal. This is invaluable for working out service level agreements with your clients and fostering trust.

Most importantly, Kanban doesn’t require you to revamp your process to begin seeing these benefits. It works by implementing incremental, evolutionary change to make your workflow more efficient and your team more productive.

Have you implemented Kanban in your workflows? How has your productivity and efficiency changed? What benefits have you noticed? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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