I'm not a big fan of those countdown articles, but my quest to find synthesized information about the problems that Kanban can solve was a failure, and therefore, I've decided to release my own Top 5 List that should help you identify the challenges in your organization which a Kanban system would be able to tackle.
Alright, let's do this.
Projects Just Seem to Fade and Die unless You Ask Questions
Whenever I talk to a high-level manager, I keep hearing the same thing over and over again. "Unless I care about a project, it dies". Most of you who have worked in a big corporation know that it is true, especially if the project is not the company's top priority. In our corporate world, a project needs an "Endorser" in order to survive, whoever that endorser might be.
Unfortunately, this tends to happen naturally. Everyone has so much to do that they only manage to deal with the most important things. However, starting a project and then throwing it into the garbage costs a lot of money. Companies that embrace Lean don't have any of these ghost projects, or at least they do their best not to. Since lean is all about eliminating waste, and an unfinished project is quite wasteful, it should be avoided.
How Does Kanban Help?
It's simple - it won't let you forget about a project. It is there on the Kanban board, and it will be there until you
a) finish it or
b) consciously decide to cancel it. It is quite different from just playing quietly and hoping that it won't get back to you.
You Rely on Status Reports to Measure Progress
I don't believe in status reporting because there is too much room for human error. No human being would admit that they screwed up with the same punctuality as a software program would.
We are all human, and we don't like failures, which, in turn, skews the accuracy of our status reporting. We always tend to make things a little bit better than they really are, and the picture gets more and more positive with each step in the hierarchy.
Then one day, the CEO gets a call from an angry customer and hears, "Do you know what the heck your company is doing at all? You suck!". Chaos ensues.
My point is clear: Do not run your business on status reports prepared by people (only). You must know some details, and you should have the means to get them.
Again, the Kanban board or system helps to visualize all projects and to present their status in real time. More sophisticated Kanban software applications will even generate reports for you out of the box. I would rather do that, not just because Kanbanize by Businessmap does it (and we obviously love our own tool), but because it is a more scalable way of running a company.
Deadlines Are Missed on a Regular Basis
Nothing new, eh? Yep, it seems that deadlines are there to be missed, and that's a given in organizations that fail to streamline their processes. Have you ever been a part of a project that takes forever to move to the next step? I have... and my gut tells me I'm not the only one.
Big corporations can spend months just talking about stuff when it would take a few weeks to build the thing and figure out if it worked or not. Why do they do it? It's because they can...
They can because there is no indicator of where things are, and the people who care about progress are being told that everything is okay (with some sort of overly positive status reports). Things go like that for some time and then the deadline comes and everyone suddenly realizes that a crisis is coming and then overtime begins and the bosses become nervous and eventually, the delivery date is missed. Another reason to skip the date is that too many things happen at the same time and you just can't handle it all.
Both Cases Can Be Prevented with a Proper Kanban Implementation
Sometimes teams make mistakes when applying Kanban, but once you've done it, your workflow will get better and better. First of all, you will not be surprised by the fact that you are nowhere two weeks before the release, and second, you will prevent context switching between multiple projects, which will make you faster.
With Kanban on the table, surprises are rarely negative because the team is able to track and control progress and, on top of that, becomes much more efficient.
Members of Your Team Feel Overloaded
Another problem that tends to arise in teams of all sizes is the proper distribution of work. There are many reasons why overloading can occur, but there is no acceptable excuse for ignoring it. It can often be attributed to miscommunication between project managers and their teams or simply the problem of underestimating the scope of a project.
One of the main principles of Kanban is the goal of eliminating bottlenecks by imposing realistic limits on how much work is in progress, how much work is requested and how much work is held off on the back burner (also known as the backlog).
This is not only a way to prioritize but also a way to ensure that no member of your team has too much on their plate. Each column of the Kanban board encourages you to set your limit and work within it.
Details Are Falling through the Cracks
Every company dreams of having a unified approach to their workflow, but, alas, everyone approaches their personal management differently. However, when one team member is tech-savvy and brings in all sorts of devices to keep track of their work, using apps to make lists and store information, and this team member pairs up to work with the post-it note sticking, pen and paper type team member, information starts going missing.
For example, web-based Kanban software ensures everyone is included in an easy yet powerful system, everything is visible and accessible to whoever needs it for their project, and, most importantly, all files and information, if chronicled correctly, will be available through any computer with the Internet. Nothing falls through the cracks because everyone is working under the umbrella of Kanban.
If you see your company doing one (or more) of the above, you should definitely try Kanban. We at Businessmap make that easy and fast, with no training or expensive professional services required. Just you, your browser, and a cup of hot coffee...
CEO and Co-founder of Businessmap
Dimitar is a lean thinker and a Kanban practitioner with a solid background in the areas of software development and process improvement. He is passionate about achieving extreme performance at scale and applying Lean/Agile principles outside IT.