That is the first thing you hear when someone is hearing about this for the first time. In my last two startups, I used it and it works quite good for us. Like in Agile / Scrum and all the other methodologies, you need to try and take what works for you. The magic in Kanban is the ability to keep most of the ‘things that works’ and gain productivity. If you like to do daily stand-ups meeting – keep them. If you push new version to production every week – keep it and the list goes on. The power of Kanban is in the ability to improve the communication and to put everyone on the same page, or a board in this case.
The Kanban technique emerged in the late 1940s in Toyota. It was their effort to invent a new approach to manufacturing and engineering. Line-workers displayed colored kanbans (=cards) to notify their downstream co-workers that demand existed for parts and assembly work. The system’s highly visual nature allowed teams to communicate more easily on what work needed to be done and when. It also standardized cues and refined processes, which helped to reduce waste and maximize value.
How to use it in your startup?
In a startup we might want to have a bit more definition to some of the process that we know will take place. For example, if your startup write software, you can use a more detailed board that will be compose from these columns:
- ToDo – This will contain all the backlog. Everything that comes up is going into this long list of todos. If you have ‘big’ tasks, try to break them into several smaller ones.
- Research – If there is a new for a real R (in the R&D), this is the phase that we take our time to research and see what are the options that we can choose from. It’s one of those area when you want to spend the time when you don’t have time. It could save you a lot of time/effort/money.
- Plan – How/who are we going to implement this new feature. This is the phase where we might break ‘large’ tasks to more granular ones in order to control them better and to be able to deliver them in a short time frame (weekly sprint?)
- Design – Putting our ideas in wireframe or prototypes so we could see what is going to look like.
- Develop – The real fun. Finally. We are coding.
- Test – Testing the new outcome in staging or QA environments.
- Deploy – After we got all the approvals and everything looks good – We can publish our work to the world (Web, Play/App store, push to customers etc’).
- Done – This will enable us to track our progress and see what we have accomplished.
Feel free to look at other cases, and to tune the columns to your needs. A Kanban board is a workflow visualization tool that enables you to optimize the flow of your work. It’s very simple and efficient in showing what is going in our project. If something urgent comes up (and it always does), you can take the person that bring it and show him the board. Now, it’s easy to see what the team is doing and if the new urgent task could be done.
Below is a classic example that you can start with in order to ‘test the water’.
Another way to make the board more effective is to split each column to two: ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’. This way, it’s very clear for the owner of the next column (=phase in the process) what block of work she can take and work on. See below an example.