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The Kanban Way for Increased Work Visibility and Productivity

Kanban board

Does your day often start with the dreaded status meeting? Sometimes, the question of ‘who is working on what?’ can get monotonous. According to studies, extensive status meetings take a toll on employee productivity.

The world has witnessed a tremendous shift in the way organizations work. Teams have embraced remote work culture owing to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Despite the comforts of working from home, we cannot ignore the downsides to it.

Working in silos has made it harder than ever for managers to know if their team members are on the same page. Remote work means different cross-functional teams do not collaborate enough to share key information and updates in a timely manner. 

Also, remote work culture puts organizational transparency at stake. Thus, it has become inevitable to take corrective measures to boost productivity. There are many tools that help in streamlining processes and coordination. Today we look at Kanban boards and how they improve work visibility and productivity.

What is a Kanban board?

A Kanban board is a tool for visualization of the workload. It provides much needed transparency to the status of tasks, adds individual accountability, improves overall efficiency, and addresses bottlenecks ahead of time.

The Kanban board can be physical or digital. The type of board used depends on the sector or organization in which it is being used. The initial application in the manufacturing sector involved a physical board. It included sticky notes or manual writing on whiteboards to record the tasks in a process. Physical Kanban boards are still in use in some companies that demand a largely physical work environment.

The digital Kanban board, however, has replaced the physical one in most industries, especially those that have a strong IT presence. It is hassle-free and can be accessed simultaneously by all the team members. Digital Kanban boards make it faster and easier to update tasks and keep track of the team’s work progression.

Evolution of the Kanban tool

‘Kanban’ in Japanese means a ‘signboard’ or a ‘visual board’. Kanban was first implemented in the 1940s by Taiichi Ohno for Toyota. A physical Kanban board was set up to plan, control, and optimize each step of the automotive production process. This worked to meet customer demand and wastage reduction.

At the beginning of the 21st century, software organizations started applying the Kanban methodology to their workflows. It was later utilized in many other sectors with the goal of improving productivity.

The elements of a Kanban board

kanban board diagram

  • Card or visual signalEach card or visual signal represents a single task. Cards help teams be aware of the status of the work of all teammates.
  • ColumnEach column represents a stage in a workflow. There can be multiple cards present under a single column. For instance, column names can be ‘To-do Tasks’, ‘In-progress’, ‘Completed or Delivered’.
  • Work-In-Progress limitsThe Work-In-Progress limit or WIP limit is the maximum number of cards that can exist under one column. For example, if the WIP=4, you cannot assign more than 4 tasks to a particular column. Team members must take corrective action to complete the existing tasks before assigning a new one.
  • Starting or commitment pointIn a Kanban board, you can continuously add several ideas to a backlog before beginning the work. Whenever the team begins to work on a particular idea, it marks the commitment point.
  • Ending or delivery pointThe endpoint or delivery point is when the work is completed or delivered to the client. The time taken between the commitment and the delivery point is called the lead time.

How does a Kanban board help in visualization?

According to research, our brain processes visual data 60,000 times quicker than text, which means that we can function optimally with visual representations. Also, visualization and action are interlinked, activating the brain’s motor cortex. Visual depiction of tasks can be more effective in accomplishing them.

Having textual ‘to-do’ lists is not as effective as a Kanban board. Apart from being a cumbersome chore to interpret lengthy textual information, the to-do lists do not display the prioritized tasks. They do not give visual cues and have no clear beginning or end.

A Kanban board, on the other hand, enables visualization of the work, helps in the understanding of the entire process, and reinforces a “big picture” mindset. It guides us in knowing how each task progresses and where it gets delayed. This is useful in identifying which tasks take longer to complete and examining the cause for the same.

Kanban in the Agile methodology

Agile methodology is an iterative project management approach. It facilitates proactive responses to an organization’s dynamic environment. It thrives on adaptability and the quick turnaround time of the team. According to the State of Agile Report, in 2020, 94% of the respondents followed an agile methodology in their organizations, owing to its remarkable efficiency.

The application of Kanban boards in agile projects and product management is significant. A Kanban board helps break down a project into simpler modules and increases the focus on planning, prioritizing, progress tracking, and outcome prediction. As a result, it brings about much-needed clarity and comprehension into the product life cycle.

A Kanban board assists in end-to-end product/project management, making its application in agile processes noteworthy. Check out some of the benefits that a Kanban board provides to managers:

Reduced cycle time

The time taken for a work unit from the beginning to the end of a workflow is called the cycle time. Shorter turnaround time is the key objective of adopting the agile methodology. The Kanban framework aims to reduce the cycle time by making the best use of the team’s shared skill set(s). This ensures the responsibility of the entire team in delivering the workload.

Reduced number of bottlenecks

Setting the Work-In-Progress (WIP) limit to an optimal value ensures a lower dependency on multitasking. This allows the team members to focus on fewer tasks at each stage of the workflow, ultimately reducing the time taken to deliver them. Also, it helps in identifying any potential issues faster.

Visual metrics for continuous process improvement

Continuous process improvement is a crucial aspect of agile methodology. This is achieved through the various visual metrics of a Kanban board. A Kanban board has visual charts such as the Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD). This chart gives great insight into historical and present data trends. It also helps to visualize the workflow and improve processes continuously.

Continuous delivery

Based on the core of the agile methodology for continuous delivery, Kanban strives to meet this goal. By focusing on fewer tasks at a time at every stage of the workflow, continuous delivery becomes possible.

Backlog for newer ideas

The Kanban board lets the user add brainstormed ideas in a backlog. This appears even before moving them under the ‘to-do’ column. After a feasibility and priority analysis, it allows the user to choose preferred and qualified tasks to be worked upon.

How do Kanban boards in kriyadocs boost the publishing lifecycle?

Academic publishing involves elaborate processes with various intricate touchpoints. Multiple rounds of reviewing and editing manuscripts, along with highly specific requirements and business rules make the entire publishing process overwhelming. Creating a streamlined framework enables better focus and faster turnaround times.

Similar to other industries, the versatile tool – Kanban board is easy to adopt into the publishing workflow as well for providing a visual insight into project management. kriyadocs, an end-to-end document collaboration platform, uses Kanban boards to effectively orchestrate the entire publishing workflow. 

Here’s how it can bring a change to the publishing pipeline and provide optimized results:

kriyadocs_Kanban board

Visualization of the entire publishing workflow

The publishing process is lengthy and complex, involving multiple stages and steps from reviewing manuscripts to publishing online. The end-to-end process can be clearly comprehended and managed through visualization using a Kanban board. The publishing workflow becomes transparent, and all stakeholders are aware of the status of work.

Multifunctional dashboard for insights

A multi-functional dashboard speeds up the publishing process and gives faster insights. This displays the tasks that are assigned to you, allowing you to focus on them. The dashboard also displays the key metrics that are critical for the prediction and analysis of the workflow. It also enables proactive measures to address potential bottlenecks.

Set priorities

Working simultaneously on different articles or manuscripts can be tedious and confusing. Depending on the importance and immediacy of a task, kriyadocs lets you mark an article as ‘Urgent’. By filtering the records based on these criteria, you can work on the high-priority tasks before you move on to the rest.

Working on a single task at a time also ensures quick delivery, bringing visibility to any existing issues, and aiding in eliminating them. Tasks can be assigned to individuals and the priority can be defined, enabling team members to work on their respective tasks in the right order.

Views customized with dynamic filter conditions

The powerful search system allows you to customize your data view. Dynamically change the filter and sort conditions as per your requirement. Drill down to any level in viewing the status of the tasks and make room for improvisation.

Bring transparency into the process

It is important to have transparency to enable the smooth functioning of any process. Kanban boards help cross-functional teams be aware of the progress and work accordingly. This increased transparency automatically reinforces better ownership and accountability.

Improved collaboration

Improved collaboration within the cross-functional teams results in seamless knowledge sharing and better output. Kanban boards in kriyadocs enable easy collaboration between different departments and stakeholders.

kriyadocs_Kanban board 2

Conclusion

Implementing a Kanban board in a project aims to reduce the cycle time and eliminate bottlenecks. It helps teams optimize their processes and bring transparency to everything they do. Be it remote work or different teams working in silos, a Kanban board helps you attain high productivity and efficiency. By limiting the work-in-progress, it restricts multitasking as well as wastage of time, effort, and resources.

The Kanban board has now become the go-to tool for visualization and productivity for most organizations. Adopting it into their workflow will ensure that publishers too can make a quick shift towards improving their productivity and efficiency.

Image courtesy: Designed by Freepik

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