Team involvement through Kanban
Why team involvement is important
What is Kanban?
Kanban originated with the Toyota Motor Corporation. In the 1940s, Toyota developed a system based on the idea of just-in-time production that aimed to increase production efficiency, reduce waste and optimise inventory. In the meantime, Kanban has become a widely used method for managing workflows in various industries and sectors.
Kanban is based on six practices:
Practice 1 - Visualise work processes: By visualising workflows through cards and columns, processes and tasks become more transparent, making it easier for team members to track progress. This promotes progress and bottlenecks are identified more quickly.
Practice 2 - Limit work-in-progress: Limiting work-in-progress helps to increase focus on important tasks and improve efficiency by avoiding multitasking and overload. To this end, the work-in-progress limit exists to ensure that only a limited number of tasks are worked on at any one time.
Practice 3 - Manage task load: Effective task load management enables better resource allocation and prioritisation of tasks, reducing bottlenecks and improving team productivity. Therefore, focus on moving tasks smoothly through the process rather than giving detailed instructions to staff.
Practice 4 - Make process guidelines explicit: Making work guidelines clear facilitates understanding of expectations and responsibilities within the team, leading to improved quality of work and more efficient collaboration.
Practice 5 - Implement feedback loops: By implementing feedback loops, teams can continuously evaluate their performance, identify areas for improvement and adjust the work process. This promotes engagement and a sense of appreciation within the team.
Practice 6 - Improve collaboratively and develop empirically: Collaborative improvement and empirical development enables teams to learn from experience and continuously optimise existing processes to achieve higher efficiency and productivity.
Kanban boards are the central tool in the application of the Kanban method. They usually consist of a board or a digital surface divided into vertical columns representing the different phases of the work process (e.g. "To Do", "Work in Progress" and "Done"). The work tasks are pinned to the board in the form of cards or post-its or written down on digital cards, linked on the board and moved between the columns depending on the progress of the work. This way, team members can see at a glance which tasks are currently being worked on, which are still open, and which have already been completed. This promotes transparency and communication within the team and enables bottlenecks and problems to be identified and resolved at an early stage.
How Kanban can contribute to team involvement
By increasing transparency, the work process becomes visible and tangible for all team members. Each team member can see at a glance which tasks are pending, which are in progress, and which have been completed. This transparency promotes a sense of responsibility and helps to strengthen the self-organisation and commitment of the employees by actively participating in the planning and implementation.
Another advantage of Kanban is that it helps to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in the project process. By limiting the number of tasks to be worked on at the same time (work-in-progress limits) and continuously monitoring the flow of work, potential problems and delays can be identified at an early stage. This enables the team to proactively respond to challenges and develop solutions to optimise the workflow. Eliminating bottlenecks leads to improved efficiency and productivity and helps employees feel that they are making a meaningful contribution to the success of the project.
All of this promotes collaboration and information sharing. Through the Kanban board, information about the work process and the status of tasks is centralised and made easily accessible. This facilitates communication between team members and reduces possible misunderstandings or information gaps. In addition, Kanban promotes regular review and discussion of the work process in the team, which in turn strengthens cohesion and mutual understanding.
By using Kanban, project managers can create an environment in which employees are motivated and engaged, which ultimately leads to better project performance and success.
How project managers can use Kanban to effectively involve the team
- Create a Kanban board that is tailored to the team's needs: First, it is important to create a Kanban board that meets the specific needs and workflows of the team. This can be a physical or a digital board. The columns of the board should represent the different phases of the work process. It can be helpful to involve the team in the design of the board to ensure that all aspects of the work process are included and that the board is understandable to all team members.
- Limit work-in-progress: To manage the team's workload and encourage focus on current tasks, project managers should set work-in-progress limits for each phase of the work process. These limits should be set based on the capacity of the team and the complexity of the tasks. It is important to review these limits regularly and adjust them if necessary.
- Use Kanban actively to motivate employees: You should encourage your team members to actively participate in the work process and take responsibility for their tasks. Kanban can contribute to this by enabling employees to track the progress of their work and make their performance visible. In addition, continuous improvement of the work process can help employees feel valued and encouraged by allowing them to contribute their ideas and suggestions to optimise the process.
- Use Kanban to improve communication and cooperation in the team: This can be achieved, for example, through regular team meetings in which the progress of tasks, possible bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement are discussed. Open and constructive feedback in the team promotes trust and mutual understanding, which in turn leads to better cooperation.
Best practices in using Kanban for employee involvement
- Regularly review and adjust the Kanban board: The Kanban board should not be a rigid instrument. The project managers should regularly review the board together with the team and adjust it if necessary to ensure that it corresponds to the current workflows and requirements. Continuous improvement of the board helps to keep it relevant and useful to staff.
- Define clear roles and responsibilities: To encourage staff involvement, project managers should define clear roles and responsibilities within the team. This helps team members to better understand their roles and responsibilities and to actively engage in the work process. This also promotes self-organisation.
- The team plans and organises its tasks independently, and Kanban supports this by enabling team members to make the work process transparent and comprehensible.
Kanban is a promising method to involve employees in projects. In addition, there are other ways to engage employees in project management, such as implementing other agile methods and frameworks (e.g., Scrum), creating an open feedback culture or organising regular team meetings. By continuously improving and adapting project management to the needs of the team, companies can sustainably increase project success and employee satisfaction.