Kanban is one of the methods you can use as a project manager to organize tasks and track progress, as well as continually improve the way that you lead your teams on any size project.
What exactly is the Kanban methodology, and what are the real benefits of implementing this tool into your workflow?
What is the Kanban Methodology?
What Is Kanban?
Sometimes, it helps to see work illustrated in an easier-to-understand, visual format, like when you take data and plot them on a graph or chart. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with a lot of information, and when it comes to completing complex projects.
Kanban is a visual way to manage your team and the work that they do as they move through the various stages of a project.
Ultimately, by using Kanban, you can visualize your workflow, or process, as well as the work that you’re doing in each phase of the project. This allows you to recognize problems along the way so you can fix them quickly, stick to your budget, and stay on course towards meeting stakeholder and client expectations.
Fun fact: Kanban was developed by Toyota in the ‘40s.
How Does Kanban Work?
Kanban is straightforward and it’s really easy to start using it whenever you’re ready.
Put simply, you use Kanban boards (they could be physical or electronic boards) that feature cards, which describe tasks that need to be completed. The cards are placed in columns depicting your movement through a project from start to finish. When you complete a task, you move the corresponding card to the next column so you and your team can see exactly where work still needs to be done.
So, when you look at your Kanban board, you’ll be able to immediately see what tasks need to be completed, which ones are in progress, and which ones are already done. You can also determine who is working on each task, and who will take over later on as the task moves through the phases of the project.
A typical board might consist of a column for backlog, a column for new tasks that you need to do, another column for tasks that are in progress, and a final column for those tasks that are finished. But there’s flexibility here, so do what works for you.
One thing to remember, though, is to set a limit on the number of work tasks in progress, or WIP, tasks that are allowed (for example, no more than 5 work in progress tasks at a time). This can help ensure your team members won’t take on more than they can handle at any given point. And it can help the work move from one stage to another at a steady pace because team members won’t be able to take on new tasks until they complete what’s in progress first.
What happens if your team is unable to move items from “in progress” to the next phase? Well, you’ll be able to quickly realize that there’s a problem because the flow of work will be slowed as a result of this bottleneck. See how it can keep things moving along nicely?
The Benefits of Using Kanban Boards
- You can start using the Kanban methodology right away because it’s easy to add it into your current project management process. Then, you can adapt it as you go in order to make it work even better for you and your team. In fact, Kanban encourages gradual changes that can help your team improve the way they function together.
- With Kanban boards, you and your team can check in on progress at any time. You can all stay up-to-date on what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done to move a project forward. If you’re looking for an easier way to keep everyone on the same page, this could be it.
- Because Kanban is a “pull system,” tasks can only be pulled when your team can actually work on them. This means Kanban can help with efficiency, and it can alert you to any problems or challenges that are preventing your team members from moving forward.
- The Kanban system encourages collaboration because your team has to work together to keep tasks moving along nicely. It provides proof that they share responsibility, and that working together can help them do more. At the same time, it limits ineffective multitasking, especially because of the work in progress limit.
- When you need to let your stakeholders know about your progress on a project, a Kanban board can showcase it simply and clearly, so you can communicate with them even more effectively.
Try Kanban for Your Next Project!
If you’re using Agile to break projects down into manageable stages that encourage continual improvement to ensure a stellar end result, you might love using the Kanban method as well. Quick and easy to implement, you can try it whenever you start working on your next big project. Want to explore other agile techniques, consider RMC’s Agile Fundamentals eLearning Course.
If you are considering taking the PMP exam, Kanban is also a key tool you are likely to find on the test. Find out more about the agile tools for the PMP exam.