Managing the part-time schedules, varying skill levels and alternating projects for multiple interns can be hard, but adding a single visual management tool to your office can make it simpler.

Enter: the Kanban board.

The board gets its genius from the Kanban system, which communicates the status, nature and context of work all in one physical space. This type of tool is especially valuable for efficiency and workflow because it plays on the natural practice of the brain, which processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text.

Creating a Kanban board in your office serves as a way for interns to map their individual workflow as well as—at a glance—show the team who is working on what and when.

How it started

Although the method has been popularized by Silicon Valley startups in recent years, the Kanban technique stems from a Toyota production system developed in the 1940s. Assembly line workers displayed colored cards to notify workers downstream about demand for parts. Kanban is the Japanese word for “visual signal” or “card.”

Because of the highly visual nature of the method, workers were able to see what work needed to be done and when, as well as take measures to maximize efficiency and minimize waste on the line.

What it is

To create a Kanban board to manage intern projects in your space, hang up a physical whiteboard, get some dry erase markers and stockpile sticky notes. If you work remotely, consider building an online Kanban board using an online platform like Trello.

At its simplest, the board can be divided into three columns: “waiting,” “in progress” and “completed.” The type and number of sections can be changed depending on the project needs of your company. The board at Dittoe Public Relations includes an urgent column to signify projects that need the immediate attention of interns. There are also rows that divide projects up by the day of the week for further organization.

After the Kanban grid is laid out, start by having employees stick color-coded sticky notes with projects for interns in the first column. Each one should include the name of the employee who placed the project on the board, the date assigned, the deadline and a brief description of the project at hand.

To break it down even further, use various colors to signify different types of projects, such as blue notes for writing and red ones for research.

When beginning a new project, interns should write their name on the note selected and meet with the employee who placed the sticky on the board to get complete project details. Interns can then move the sticky into the proceeding sections as they move through the project until complete.

Why your office needs one

This type of workflow management is especially effective for interns and new employees because it allows them to visualize their projects, notice the pace of their work and grow their sense of accountability within the company. A Kanban also creates a sense of transparency — out in the open, the board holds interns accountable for the projects they choose and the deadlines associated with each project.

On the flip side, those who manage interns can use the board to gain valuable insight into their interns’ work. Are employees assigning too many or too few projects to interns? Are there too many writing projects and not enough research projects? Is an intern gravitating towards a certain type of project, and what work can be placed on the board to strengthen their skills in that area?

By creating and utilizing a Kanban board, companies will create a new, visual standard of work not only for your interns – but the entire company.

And besides, finally moving a sticky into the “complete” column after many status updates gives your interns even more satisfaction than crossing a task off their to-do list. Is there anything better than that?

 

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