How Vsimple Uses Kanban Practices to Transform Operations

February 21, 2022

If you’ve heard the term Kanban, odds are you’ve worked at Toyota or have studied its famous lean production management system. The Japanese word (meaning ‘visual board’) has been used in reference to process management for 70 years, and while it originated within manufacturing, its principles have been applied in organizations across many industries. Put simply, it’s a workflow management methodology intended to define, manage and improve systems or processes.

Sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve read about what we do at Vsimple! Our digital workspace is only effective because we partner with our customers (including Toyota) to define and refine their processes using Kanban practices. Let’s examine what this means on a practical level. 

1. Visualize Workflows

We don’t start with a problem or a solution; when we first connect with potential Vsimple customers, we take time to understand processes that exist today. Often, those processes are partially or completely undocumented, in which case we’ll interview key stakeholders to make sure we capture the steps, the roles and the systems used to manage them. Then we create a visual map to show not only what it looks like today, but how it would look if managed centrally in a shared workspace. This gives us an opportunity to consolidate and eliminate a large percentage of steps in a process, limits potential for errors and gives organizations a cleaner way to work. 

2. Limit “Work in Progress”

A key element of Kanban is ensuring work-in-progress limitations, which if not managed can lead to issues caused by too many “moving parts” at once. Part of our effort during the operational assessment is to define stage gates, which effectively serve as inflection points in the process where key items must be completed in order to move forward. We build those stage gates into each organization’s instance of Vsimple, limiting the ability of any individual to skip steps or overlook key inputs. 

3. Manage Process Flow

Managing workflow is at the core of what we do, and we provide a number of tools for our customers to stay in control. For instance, in addition to defining key stage gates, we’ll also ensure the appropriate contacts in the organization are assigned actions at the corresponding stages. This eliminates ambiguity about who needs to take the next step, or what that step is. Questions, status updates and documents all live in harmony on the platform, too, centralizing critical information. Knowing human error is always possible, we set redundancies by automatically notifying designated people if a process stage has exceeded the targeted number of days in said stage. 

4. Standardize Operating Procedures 

Building a standard operating procedure (SOP) is critical, as is ensuring all personnel affected by the procedures have access to the documentation. Having context for the entire process is critical so individuals understand how the work they do contributes. We publish all supporting documentation on the Vsimple platform, and we even train employees when deploying the software. 

5. Feedback Loops

Companies and processes evolve. For instance, our customers frequently expand product lines, acquire businesses and expand territories. Any time the business changes, processes change and need to be communicated. Vsimple assigns a customer success manager to every client, and it is the sole responsibility of this individual to ensure the customer continues to derive amazing value from the platform. This includes building new workflows, tweaking existing systems, training employees and executing new feature requests. Companies are never a finished product and neither is Vsimple. 

6. Improve Collaboratively

Because we stay connected with our customers long after the initial implementation, we can continually collaborate on and test new ideas. Sometimes it’s a tweak to the process, other times it may be automation or integrations. Our platform is built to scale and change with organizations and we take a continuous improvement mindset both with our customers and our product. 

The Kanban method has a decades-long track record of delivering results to some of the best-run organizations in the world. We’ve baked those principles into our discovery, implementation and support processes to ensure Vsimple isn’t just another workflow management tool, but rather a critical piece of information and collaboration infrastructure for our customers. If you have a business process you’d like us to consider, please get in touch. Our operational assessments are always free of any obligation, and we love a good challenge!