Applying Kanban to improve your effectiveness at work

Having worked in manufacturing for a while, one of the wastes that we often look at is TIME. Products not moving are a waste of time and working on the wrong tasks is again a waste of time. In manufacturing, you want your products to move as quickly as possible from one area to the next.


Let’s look at the example of a customer at MacDonald’s. They place an order that creates a demand on the “Burger Stacker” which in turns creates a demand on the kitchen. The kitchen pushes the product to the stacker and someone picks up the burger and delivers it. In this scenario, the kitchen is not trying to forecast what customers will want and when. This is a basic Kanban process where one event triggers the next.

Kanban is a Japanese principle where activities are all scheduled “just-in-time”. It reduces waiting time and ensures that people only focus on what needs to be done, when it needs to be done.

HOW DOES KANBAN APPLY TO MY JOB?

Whether you are a small business owner, a construction worker or working in an office in a large company, it is often difficult to plan which tasks you will complete each day. If you schedule a full week of work, there is a strong chance that by the end of the week only half of the tasks will only have been completed.

Why? Firstly, we often over-estimate what we can achieve in a day. Secondly, other things crop up. Measuring time spent on planned tasks, most of us would be lucky to clock 6 hours a day. Disruptions are sometimes necessary, but often they are avoidable.  They are a major cause of time waste and can be difficult ,but not impossible, to eliminate (I’ll be taking a look at how to do this in a later blog post). So rather than planning what you can do each day, how can you apply the principle of Kanban? This is what it looks like as an example:

Take a blank sheet of paper and draw columns to represent the progression of tasks. Here are some ideas of columns:

  • Back log (all the stuff you want to do one day)
  • Not Ready (tasks that you cannot start because you are waiting on someone else)
  • Ready (you can start and you will)
  • In progress (what you are working on)
  • Waiting (I am waiting for someone else)
  • Done (hurray!)

Draw lanes to represent a topic (i.e. a project, a group of tasks, etc.). Add post-it notes with the name of the tasks and position them logically in each column,

For your Kanban board to work perfectly, you are allowed to pick one task from the “Ready” column and move it to the “In Progress” column. You must work on this task until you are either waiting on someone else or it is completed. Once completed, pick the next most important task from the “Ready” column. When your “Ready” column is empty, pick a task from the backlog.

YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR BOARD BY:

  1. Using coloured stickers or different coloured pens to represent a priority, a type of task or a project
  2. Write a due date on each sticker so you can prioritise (most important stickers at the top).

Once you’re familiar with the concept, you should find that you are completing tasks much faster with less procrastination. If you want to keep your Kanban board digital rather than on paper and post-it notes, you can try using an application like Schedullo to set up your Kanban board.