Using Kanban to Supercharge Your New Startup Operations


Startups, especially the ones that are newly created, face a lot of challenges before they can get off the ground. It is not uncommon for new startups to run into issues related to their operations – from the lack of team members to handle more advanced tasks to challenges in staying efficient with smaller tasks in hand.

A lot of startups now use the Kanban system to stay lean and effective, especially during their early days. You can use the same approach to supercharge your new startup operations and gain a number of competitive advantages from the beginning.

Why Kanban?

Kanban is a way to visualize processes and tasks in order to make them more manageable. It is a system introduced by Toyota long ago, but it is also remains incredibly relevant and effective today. By visualizing processes and tasks, the Kanban approach gives you more control over every part of your operations.

Using Kanban, you basically divide your operations into smaller tasks – small projects – that can be assigned to individual team members. The approach also gives you the ability to set task priority levels accordingly, including by assigning certain tasks to multiple team members.

Since all tasks are visualized on the Kanban board, you also minimize the risk of missing important tasks and failing to complete them on time. In return, you will have a startup operation that goes beyond what you would expect from a new business entity, particularly in terms of efficiency and effectiveness as a new company.

Utilizing Kanban’s Tools

Kanban comes with immense flexibility, allowing you to customize virtually every part of the board to your specific needs. For example, a standard Kanban board has three phases: to-do, doing, and done. These three aren’t the only ones you can use. In fact, you can customize the entire board depending on how your organization is set up.

In a lean and small startup, for example, a board can be used to represent team members. Apart from the three phases mentioned earlier, you can create different horizontal lanes on a Kanban board that represent John’s workflow for example.

The same can be said for the Kanban classes of service. You can divide each task into four Kanban classes of service: Expedite, Fixed Delivery Date, Standard, and Intangible. Depending on the nature of the tasks you need to handle, you can also set up additional classes to make the board more suitable for your organization.

The possibilities are endless with the Kanban board. You can, for instance, use online tools like Kanbanize to have different board configurations for different departments. You can also translate the Kanban cards into a Gantt chart to get a better understanding of how one task affects the others. All you need to do is set a timeframe for every task.

Optimizing Workflows

One of the biggest advantages of using the Kanban method is workflow optimization; the opportunity to optimize different workflows in your startup, to be exact. The more you use Kanban as a way to organize tasks, the faster you can identify bottlenecks and disruptions in the processes. This means you can use the insights to improve workflows across the new company.

If you see a bunch of Kanban cards in the Review phase, for instance, then you know that the review process isn’t quick enough for the workload. You can either assign more people to perform reviews or optimize the workflow itself by shortening the time needed to review each task. The result is a more streamlined process from start to finish.

Another sign of a bottleneck is when tasks spend a lot of time in a particular phase – or stay too long on the board. You’ll know that the operation isn’t efficient enough when you start seeing tasks staying for longer than they should on the Kanban board. This requires some digging to uncover the true cause of the issue, but you can mostly solve it by either assigning more people or dividing those tasks into smaller chunks.

Lastly, you get a huge advantage when it comes to improving reaction time. When critical tasks aren’t completed quickly enough, you can assign a faster class of service, direct more attention to them, or simply set aside a dedicated team within the organization for handling expedited tasks and completing them in a timely manner.

It is easy to see how the Kanban method is incredibly useful for new startups, especially when you consider the fact that you have workflows and processes to improve early in the game. The sooner you can optimize those processes, the more efficient you will be as a company, and the more you can achieve as a startup. Staying lean and boosting performance is no longer impossible with the Kanban method assisting you every step of the way.