How to manage a process using a Kanban board

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We’re all too busy all too often.

How can you get a handle on this – and get some control and visibility over what is going on?

One approach is to put a Kanban system in place.

Kanban is a way to see how value flows through your business.

At the end of any process, something should come out that has value to someone. Things – information, materials flow through the process and get changed into value.

Our job is to make it easier for things to flow from one stage to the next and we can do this using a Kanban board.

On the board, we set out the stages that we follow in our business. To keep things simple, let’s assume these are To-do, Doing and Done.

Under each title, we list out the things that fall into that category – usually on post-its, or perhaps in a spreadsheet.

The next part of the process is to introduce a constraint. The big number at the top limits the number of pieces of work that can be done in that stage at any time.

You can see in the picture above that there is conflict. The limit in Doing is 3 but there are six items.

Three need to be moved back into the To-do pile.

You can only move an item from To-do to Doing by moving something else from Doing to Done.

Applying the constraint and stopping your list from growing has an interesting effect.

To keep flow going, you have to get things done.

If there are things on your Doing list that don’t add value, or are acting as a bottleneck and taking up resources, you need to stop doing them or do them better.

In other words, do only things that matter to the end result.

A Kanban system is a deceptively simply way to improve a process.

It might look just like another way of creating lists.

But, when you combine the lists with a constraint on the number of items and a focus on flow, you end up creating more value at the end of the process than you were before.

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