Working from home with Kanban Boards
What is a Kanban board?
A Kanban board is one of the tools that can be used to implement Kanban (a lean method to manage and improve work across human system) to manage work at a personal or organisational level.
Kanban boards visually depict work at various stages of a process using cards to represent work items and columns to represent each stage of the process. Cards are moved from left to right to show progress and to help coordinate teams performing the work. A Kanban board may be divided into horizontal “swim lanes” representing different kinds of work or different teams performing the work.
How have we used it?
We have adopted Kanban boards as a very simple way of managing workload in a visual way. It comprises of a “to do list”, which each person’s tasks in a different colour, items are then move across the board as the work is progressed through “Work in progress” (WIP) and then “complete”. We have also added in boxes for “Waiting for Response” (WFR) for items that are still on our radar but currently outside our ability to influence, this could also be done as another column.
We have meetings 3 times a week (Monday afternoon, Wednesday & Friday morning) that last between 15 – 30 minutes. These provide the opportunity to discuss workload and raise issues as well as providing a social element that we were missing when we began working from home.
Benefits and drawback
There are several benefits we have found from using Kanban Boards:
- As a management tool, they allow us to easily say what the team are working on each week, if there is any additional capacity or if anyone needs additional support. We have also used them to help prioritise work.
- Supporting social interaction, at the start of lockdown we found that we where all just getting on with our work and only talking around issues. The Kanban board meeting provide the opportunity for some “water cooler” conversation around more than just the work. As there is a formal element to these meetings it doesn’t come across as “Forced Fun” but an opportunity to talk about personal topics as well as professional.
- Reduces emails, we have found that a lot of emails have been sent over the last year that would have been a conversation in the office. These meetings are regular and informal enough that we can still have these conversations and not have to send endless emails.
- This is a simple tool, it doesn’t require any advance computer skill or specialised software to set up and can be done in several ways, such as word documents, excel spreadsheets, virtual whiteboards, etc. Its also very visual so its easy to explain and for people to follow.
Although as a whole the Kanban boards have been well received some teams have seen them as an attempt to micromanage workload or overly formal. It is important they are embedded into the team at every level and they are protected time for the team.