Kanban was originally implemented in production, but today it is widely used in other business areas including software development where its benefits have been realized improving efficiency and productivity. Kanban is based on the principles of a pull system, pioneered in Lean manufacturing. Lean thinking helps to refine and improve development in areas such as process flow, waste reduction ( e.g. unnecessary code and functionality, delay in the software development process, unclear requirements, insufficient testing), and it empowers the team by increasing collaboration. Kanban, is similar to the Agile approach in that it is focused on quick delivery of results, but only features that are of value to the customer. Lean thinking also forces collaborative learning, strong communication and problem solving by the team.
Continuous process improvement can be achieved by following three main principles:
1. Increase system efficiency , instead of individual performance
The Kanban board helps to visualize, monitor and manage the team as they proceed through the development lifecycle. By implementing Kanban it is possible to measure the organizations’ and teams’ performance on state, time and priority basis. The continuous improvement approach focuses on creating a healthy pressure and balanced workload on team members, collaborative problem solving and knowledge sharing. WIP limits immediately shows bottlenecks and ensures that others team members help to solve problems and start the continuous improvement cycle. The full traceability of each and all status on the Kanban board helps to improve the workflow, which tilts the perception so that it provides a feeling of greater efficiency. Kanban is like one continuous sprint, with the main goal not to force team members to work faster, but rather optimize the flow together. In Lean/ Kanban the system is more important than the individual, therefore the basic attitude is that the team can achieve more together.
2. Eliminate waste , balance workload
Lean thinking requires the elimination of waste. When working with Kanban the analysis of waste sources is essential. Waste can be caused by partially done work – left incomplete for some reason, extra processes (not valued added processes – e.g. unused documentation), development of useless features (features driven by technology only, features not likely to be used), task switching (multitasking, multiproject involvement), waiting (e.g.- delays from review/approvals), and defects. Due to the strong focus on process optimization waste analysis and waste mitigation, Lean thinking is a significant part of Kanban based management.
WIP limits helps to reduce inventory and create a pull system upstream. After finishing a task, pull a new one from the preceding stage, freeing up capacity there and giving an opportunity for the preceding stage to pull on its own. This keeps going all the way up to the input queue. Pull strategy supports to minimize waste and WIP limits help to balance workload.
3. Increase team empowerment and change the management behavior
Traditional project managers define a project plan, estimate the effort and expected deadlines based on historical experiences, and push the team to achieve goals within the given time frame. Lean and Kanban needs a different thinking from the management. Accept a pull strategy instead of a push approach! As a first step the project manager includes the team in estimating the project plan. This gave them a first voice in the management side of the project and results in increased motivation. Applying Agile principles, is a subsequent step, measurement of what the team could deliver in an iteration is key and then use these numbers for planning, instead of historical estimates. Kanban is a pull model, when the team works under supervision but more collaboratively, and workload is more balanced. This approach has led to a significant increase in value creation and quality according to many success stories.
Lean and Kanban techniques can be a real generator of efficiency. Intland provides a Kanban tool for implementing Kanban and Agile methods in software development teams. Using codeBeamer its easier and quicker to implement Kanban and be Agile – check out our How-to video about using the Kanban board. Sign up for a 30 days trial and use the SCRUM Project template, which contains Kanban practice as well.