Businesses are like rivers. They can flow unimpeded, slipping past barriers like boulders and waterfalls with ease. Or, they can encounter natural log jams and manmade dams that stop their progress. Today we’re going to talk about keeping the current of your business moving forward effectively, and why Kanban is the best way to do this. 

Kanban is a tech-inspired business management tool that uses a visual process board. It’s designed for maximum efficiency. Think of Kanban as your river steward – the protector of your processes and workers. Let’s look at why it could serve your organization well.

Dams and Log Jams

Using a visual Kanban board to track projects allows you to move through three common business situations more effectively.

Slowdowns: If you’ve ever floated a river, you know when you hit the flat stretches, you’re not going to get very far, very fast. These slowdowns happen in business, as well. If you’re tracking your processes using Kanban, your entire team can see when something has stalled, and everyone is empowered to move that piece forward. Management, too, can recognize this issue more quickly, and step in to help if necessary.

Rapids: Sometimes you just have to get your project done as quickly as possible. With a visual Kanban board tracking progress, you speed up the time between steps. As soon as one person is finished with their part, the next person can see that they’re up, and because of that they’re ready to go. In some ways, the Kanban board handles the communication process for you, so there’s no lost time explaining what needs to happen next.

Riverbends: Projects often change direction unexpectedly, and the only way to navigate around these curves is to be as flexible as possible. Kanban gives you this agility. We’ve talked about Business Analysts performing like Parkour athletes. Have you ever seen a Parkour expert crossing a river? That person is trained to see the whole challenge ahead of them and quickly determine which surfaces they can use to bound from space to space. Kanban is like that because you can visually take in everything at once, which helps you strategically determine where to make your next move.

An Undercurrent of Trust

In addition to helping you meet these challenges, Kanban keeps your team accountable. Often when employees encounter problems, they’ll stop communicating and start finger-pointing. If all necessary steps in your process are set up in a Kanban board, it’s easy to see who is responsible, so they’re encouraged to get their part done.

Even if they don’t, others can see what needs to happen and step in to help them out. As accountability improves, so does trust. Your people realize they can count on each other. They stop doubting and begin to know they have each other’s backs. Because of this, you’ll hit your delivery targets more quickly, and you’ll find yourself with a happier team.

Navigating Change

One of the most important things to remember about business – and rivers – is that change happens, and it can strike suddenly. In a river, it’s a flood; in business, it feels like one! The outcome doesn’t have to be catastrophic. One of the best reasons to use Kanban-style planning is that it reminds us change is constant, and necessary, but it doesn’t have to be painful. You can readjust priorities on your board simply by shifting cards around, so while the change of direction may be difficult, it’s never unmanageable. Chances are you’ve already seen Kanban improve your team’s communication, accountability, trust, reaction speed and adaptability. They’ve trained for this, so you’re in a good space to weather whatever changes come your way, with the least amount of trauma.

Physical vs. Virtual

Finally, you might wonder, what’s the best way to set up my Kanban board? If you have the physical space and a team that’s all in one place, simple sticky notes on a large white board will work. If your team is more spread out and/or office space is at a premium, consider creating a virtual board online using Cardsmith. Anyone on your team can access it from anywhere in the world, allowing for maximum agility.

We hope this overview of Kanban – and why it’s such a powerful tool – helps you navigate your organization’s unique business processes and challenges. It really can be a beautiful journey, if you plan for it.