A Kanban board is a simple but highly effective way to provide insight into the real-time status of work. This lesson demonstrates how Kanban boards can be constructed and utilized to control capacity and demand.
You Need a Kanban Board
Imagine for a minute that you are working in the IT department for a furniture retailer. Your expertise is in business intelligence and your primary job duties are to create reports and maintain the databases that feed the reports. You have some reports that are stable. They are semi-permanent, reliable, valid, and generate automatically. However, most of your day-to-day work involves building customized queries designed to produce specific, ad-hoc reports for other departments with a need for answers to narrow, specific business questions. Everybody wants their reports, and everyone wants them yesterday.
You can't do these all at the same time. How are you going to determine what to work on and in what order? One option is to use a Kanban board, which is a lean portfolio management (LPM) tool that can be used to visualize the current status of work.
Purpose of a Kanban Board
Simply put, a Kanban board is a visual tool for displaying simple but accurate information about the status of work ''right now.'' The ''right now'' is what makes a Kanban board lean. Lean principles dictate that the most efficient system operates with a just-in-time objective. The goal of just-in-time is that no one is waiting and there is no excess capacity. Your Kanban board should ensure that you always have something to work on, but never so much that your customers are in a holding pattern waiting for you.
In its simplest form, the Kanban board answers the questions:
- What am I working on right now?
- What do I need to be working on in the future?
- What have I completed (or am no longer working on)?
Although it's a really simple format, it's quite useful in a number of ways. By creating a Kanban board, you can demonstrate to your internal customers that their request has been received, understood, and prioritized for placement in your queue. In this instance, the Kanban board is simple and should remain so. Its simplicity helps all your internal customers understand what you're working on at a precise moment, and it gives them confidence that their work will receive attention in due course. Now let's explore several functions of a Kanban board.
Up-to-Date, Real-Time Work Status
In this example, your Kanban board visually depicts your capacity and demand. In the context of lean portfolio management, capacity is the ability to perform a task, and demand is the customer's desire for the product. In this example, your capacity is your maximum productivity level in a given time-frame and your demand is every report or database task currently in your work queue.
In the first simple Kanban board, only three things were depicted: completed work, current work, and future work. There is, however, another important consideration that can be added to receive more value from the Kanban board. A Kanban board can also help make sure that work in progress stays within reasonable limits.
Resource Requirements & Utilization
When demand for your reports increases or your capacity to produce them decreases, you may simply respond to a request by saying something like, ''Look - I've got a whole lot on my plate, and your report isn't my top priority. I'll get around to it when I can.'' That's an inappropriate response, but maybe not for the reason you think. Your Kanban board can help you and your requester understand an important principle. The question isn't ''Can you do this?'' It's actually, ''What resources do we need to get this completed according to the customer's specifications?'' You can make a Kanban board that contains a dimension for priority. This helps with resource use and prioritization.
Kanban Boards and Flow Control
A Kanban board also outlines work in progress (WIP) to establish realistic expectations. Remember that the idea behind Kanban is just-in-time, so the Kanban board also controls the flow of tasks in and out of your queue. When utilized properly, a Kanban board helps make sure that you are never under or overcommitted. They provide a way for you to limit the inflow of tasks, thereby limiting the number of unkept promises.
A Kanban board is a lean portfolio management (LPM) tool that helps people visualize the flow of work or tasks. The Kanban board provides important, real-time data about who's working on what and when they're working on it. This data helps accomplish the lean principle just-in-time, or eliminating as much wait time as possible.
To do this, a Kanban board shows the capacity and demand of work. Capacity is the ability to complete a task without being over-committed, and demand is the number of tasks that customers expect. The quantity of current work, or work in progress, is well-aligned when a Kanban board balances capacity and demand.