Using the Kanban Method to Boost Productivity, Efficiency, and Problem Solving in Your Company

It’s not much of a surprise that Toyota, a company which has organised lean manufacturing and management principles into a highly effective strategy, is also responsible for bringing one of the most effective methods of industrial scheduling to the world.

However, don’t be misled into thinking that only companies as large as Toyota have a use for the Kanban method; small businesses can actually find it even more effective for increasing internal productivity. I will share a few reasons why, but first, what is the Kanban method?

What is Kanban?

Kanban is an innovative lean method of improving your human management in any given working environment. Using ‘Just In Time’ practices, it allows managers to make the process of finishing any given task easy and seamless.

Processes Across Multiple Departments Flow Seamlessly When Everything is Transparent

Transparency impacts business processes in ways that are both psychological and practical in their effects. It improves data flow between departments, speeds up work, and builds trust within the company’s whole workforce by utilising the two following natural advantages that come with intelligent use of transparency.

The Psychology of Transparency Used in Kanban

Everyone behaves better in front of the public and even more so when they are on camera! Kanban creates a system that lets everyone, from the co-workers and the managers to even the CEO, take a look at the board and see who is doing what.

When everyone knows where everyone else is in their work schedule, people tend to work more sincerely and faster, without unnecessary delays. It maintains a sense of healthy competitiveness, without enforcing it. This way, Kanban provides an alternative way of managing Agile projects.

The Practical Effect That Ensues from the Transparency

It isn’t uncommon for interdepartmental rivalries and unprofessional behaviour to hold up/delay processes at certain points much longer than they need to be. Due to the fact that everyone can see who is holding up the project, such unprofessional behaviours can easily be noticed, mitigated, or even completely eliminated if need be.

In most cases though, the very fact that the executives are looking at the Kanban board is usually enough to make the transmission of data and work processes go from one department/individual to the other, quite fast like it should be. This transparency also makes it easy to trust each other more, since their honesty isn’t optional anymore.

Problem Solving: Kanban Tears Down the Problem to Find Solutions

Sometimes, when there is a delay or a bottleneck, it’s nobody’s intentional fault, but an actual problem that needs to be solved in order to move forward. One of the most effective methods in which the Kanban system solves issues effectively involves the rule of “5 Whys.” The dynamic system centers around asking five questions in respect to the problem, each of which begins with a “Why.” The answers received are then further categorised and analysed to find solutions.

True Teamwork is Created when Value, Goals, and Achievements are Not Forgotten

It is largely believed that Toyota is a leading automotive manufacturer and seller because the whole company has unmatched teamwork, where employees are located across the planet but unified by Kanban. They may not all be working on the same project, but they are all simultaneously kept aware of the more universal processes and updates, which affect everyone in the company.

The main goal with Kanban is to create a singular team in essence, with everyone being on the same page constantly and in real-time. The impact such teamwork can have even on a small business is nothing short of astounding, not to mention the fact that it’s a much more manageable and achievable target for SMEs due to their comparatively smaller size. When the whole company is on board regarding the following, productivity will be boosted, deadlines will be met, and problems will be solved with immediate effect:

  • The immediate goals and the long-term goals
  • How each of those goals will contribute to the ultimate goal
  • How each employee will be a part of the growth that they are helping to achieve
  • How and why management values trusted employees over short-term gains
  • Why someone got the promotion, and how they deserve it more than others
  • How similar problems/bottlenecks were solved previously and who solved it

Kanban aims to simplify every step that is necessary to meet the desired goals, and therein lies its strength. In fact, Kanban is flexible enough to fit any business model and make it more profitable within a surprisingly short time, even if it requires some degree of customisation to fit a particular business model.

Ultimately, in a world that is still recovering from the global Coronavirus pandemic, companies need to be focusing on improving their internal efficiency. The Kaban method is the ideal way to achieve this, as this article proves.

By Grace Murphy