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What is the Kanban method?
What is the Kanban method?

Kanban is a style of workflow management. It provides a flexible approach to optimize workflows by visualizing all work on a single canvas.

Andi Ancheta avatar
Written by Andi Ancheta
Updated over a week ago

The Kanban method gives you insight into where everything stands across your company. It focuses on continuous delivery and helps streamline processes in order to optimize the completion of work.

History of Kanban

The Kanban method originated in Japan in the late 1940s. It was pioneered by Toyota as a way of streamlining production processes through continuous delivery. Their goal was to implement a ‘just-in-time’ approach to delivery. This approach enabled Toyota to maximize throughput on the production line and deliver cars faster.

The term ‘Kanban’ means ‘visual signal’ or ‘visual card’ in Japanese. Toyota workers would use cards to signal the completion of one activity and the ability to start the next activity. All of the cards were displayed on a board to indicate the current stage of each activity, and whether or not new activities could commence.

The Kanban method has been adopted and adapted by a number of industries. Industries including software development, media, and real estate. Each of these industries has tailored the Kanban method to suit their own needs for continuous delivery and just-in-time completion of activities.

The Kanban method is ideal to manage workflow in your company.

Kanban for Accountants

As an accountant, you always have lots of clients with lots of work to be completed. Across your firm it can be challenging to visualize:

  • what work is in-progress

  • what work is blocked

  • when upcoming work is planned to start

  • when existing work is due to be completed

  • who’s overworked and who’s got spare capacity

With Kanban, you can see where each project stands across your entire firm. You can see this information visually, in one place, and in a way that makes the most sense to you. With Kanban, you ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

By applying the Kanban method you can gain insight and control over both your ad-hoc and recurring work. Recurring compliance jobs, payroll, tax, can all be managed with Kanban. As can one-off projects like establishing a trust, company restructures, and mergers and acquisitions. The Kanban method is flexible enough to support all types of work.

Kanban enables you to manage capacity and identify who is overloaded and who can take on more. You can identify dependencies and bottlenecks before they become blockers. You can adjust priorities in real-time. You can minimize the time it takes to go from planned to completed, and as a result, you can get through more work with the same sized team.

Applying the Kanban method with Karbon

Karbon has taken the principles of the Kanban method and used them to revolutionize workflow management in accounting firms. The Kanban Board provides the ability to visualize all work across your firm. Every piece of work defined in Karbon is represented as a card on the Kanban Board.

Karbon gives you the ability to view the Kanban board from different perspectives, including:

  • by work status

  • by assignee

  • by start date

  • by due date

  • by completed date

When viewing the board by work status, each column represents a different status. Each work item is displayed as a card in the column matching its current status. As a work item progresses, you can drag & drop the card to another column to update its status.

When viewing the Kanban Board by assignee, each column represents a colleague. In each column are the work items assigned to each user as well as a card for each work item the user is involved in but not assigned. When work needs to be re-assigned the card can be moved from one column to another. This enables you to balance staff capacity and maximize your team’s utilization.

When viewing the board by start or due date, each column represents a time period. Viewing by start date displays work in each column according to when work is planned to start. Likewise, when viewing by due date, all work is displayed in each column according to its due date. By visualizing work by start or due date you can see what work is in the pipeline. You can identify potential bottlenecks and take action before they become an issue.

Kanban helps your team work better. It forces your team to deliver because they can't start new work until they complete their existing work. Your team spends less time multitasking which enables better utilization and quicker delivery. Clients are happier because turn-around times are shorter and the higher throughput make you more profitable.

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