Lean Kanban Project ManagementThe Sensible Framework for Optimal Project Performance

Lean Kanban project management is a dynamic approach combining the principles of Lean and the practices of Kanban to streamline processes, reduce waste, and enhance team collaboration. Let's take a closer look at the core concepts behind Lean and Kanban, delve into their origins, and distill a step-by-step roadmap to implementing Lean Kanban in your projects.

What is Lean?

A man working in the automotive industry

The powerful Lean practices originated under the banner of the Toyota Production System (TPS). Developed by Toyota in the 20th century, TPS revolutionized the automotive industry by creating a culture of continuous improvement and unwavering customer focus, for which the car makers are still known today. The driving force behind Lean is the relentless pursuit of eliminating all kinds of waste (muda, mura, muri) and maximizing value delivery across all process steps. It is most commonly applied to industries such as manufacturing, healthcare and software development.

What is Kanban?

Kanban - on the other hand - emerged as a visual management system within TPS. Its roots lie in the Japanese term kanban which translates to visual signal or card. Kanban provides a systematic way to manage work as it flows through a process, making it visible, limiting work in progress, and optimizing throughput. Over time, Kanban has transcended its manufacturing origins to become one of the most popular methods for implementing Lean thinking - initially in software development - and then across all other knowledge-based work.

A team in front of their Kanban process board

Lean and Kanban benefits

When combined, the Lean and Kanban approach promotes achieving a transparent and visual workflow that is easy to streamline and focus on efficiency through a team's continued improvement efforts. The benefits of using Lean Kanban project management are:

  • Simplified problems identification early on, lowering project risks and speeding up production
  • Improved team communication and process transparency, making for easier and more accurate product delivery predicability
  • Higher customer feeback and process value stream awareness

How to implement
Lean Kanban project management?

Step 1: Set it up

Begin by forming small, cross-functional teams that match your project's requirements and maintain some level of autonomy.
Decide on the iteration's length to align with the work's nature, product vision, available resources, and success criteria.

Lean Kanban project management

Step 2: Plan it

Create a set of policies or strategies that your team can follow. These policies will work to ensure everyone is on the same page and can access the big picture in real-time. That, in turn will increase the team's motivation and preparedness to meet the — possibly ever-changing — demand.

Step 3: Design

Visualize your Lean Kanban process on a task board, breaking the workflow into columns representing different process stages. Work items move through these columns as they progress.

Step 4: Limit WIP

Limiting work in progress is a crucial aspect of Lean Kanban project management. Adherence to WIP limits prevents multitasking, allowing your team to concentrate fully on specific tasks, reducing delivery time, and boosting job satisfaction.

Step 5: Build

Execute your project while keeping policies and WIP limits in mind. Appoint a Kanban sponsor or change manager to oversee the process, increasing the project's likelihood of success.

Kanban Tool's automatically generated process metrics

Step 6: Measure

Monitor the process and measure its properties, including throughput, lead time, cycle time, and other relevant metrics. Many online Lean Kanban project management tools offer readily available analytics, e.g. time reports, cumulative flow charts, breakdown charts or lead and cycle time graphs.

Step 7: Review

Regularly review the process's performance based on the board's metrics. Determine whether it aligns with your expectations and be ready to make necessary adjustments. Continuous improvement — the forever-evolving streamlining of the process — is a core goal of Lean Kanban, one worth underscoring, as it sometimes gets overlooked by new adopters.

Step 8: Assess

While reviewing the work, in some cases, you may decide to pivot or even abandon the new process shape. Experimentation is a valid part of Lean Kanban, and both success and failure offer lessons to learn from.

Start your Lean Kanban journey!

Adopting the Lean Kanban project management process may seem complex at first, but as long as you follow the logical sequence of steps, it will work to your process efficiency advantage. To simplify the journey, consider using Kanban Tool, a versatile web-based application for creating and efficiently managing Kanban boards. With Kanban Tool, your team can use custom board and task layouts, track project time and metrics, control the flow with WIP limits, collaborate in real-time, and integrate with their other favorite tools.

Are you ready to embark on the transformative journey of Lean Kanban for your projects?
Reload your process with Lean Kanban today by signing up for a free 14-day trial of Kanban Tool. No credit card required, no risk, no obligation — just pure value.

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Lean Kanban Project Management Software

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