Have you ever used a Kanban board? Our Senior Project Manager Ellie explains about this simple project management tool and how to use a Kanban Board.
What is Kanban?
For those if you who have never heard of Kanban, it is a Japanese term that loosely translates as ‘signboard’. It originated in manufacturing as a Toyota production pull system, which is a system where cars are produced based on forecasts, rather than a push system, where cars are made to fulfil customer orders. Since it was first used in the 1940s, Kanban has become much more widely recognised as an effective workflow management tool. It is often used in Agile project management.
What is the goal of Kanban?
The goal of Kanban is to help teams visualise and limit the amount of work they have in progress. A simple way of using Kanban is to create a Kanban board, using a board and cards (we like to use a whiteboard and post-it notes when we set these up face-to-face).
How do you create a Kanban Board?
You draw columns on your board to represent each step of your workflow. The simplest design is to have three columns: To Do, Doing and Done, but you can change the language used on columns to suit your working practices. You can also add columns to represent additional process steps where needed, for example columns headed Waiting or For Approval for tasks that need quality assurance before completion.
You add tasks to the board using cards (e.g. post-it notes) and the aim is to move tasks through the workflow process through to completion (i.e. from To Do to eventually being Done).
For greater clarity, you can add rows onto your board to categorise your tasks. Your rows could be with team member’s names, project names or work themes – whatever makes the most sense for your working practice and environment.
Creating the rows is a good way of visualising where certain team members or areas of work may have lots going on. This can then be a really effective cue for you to redistribute tasks and resources to make sure all the work can get Done.
What are the benefits of using Kanban Boards?
You’ll get the most out of Kanban board if you use them as a point of group discussion on a regular basis, I’d suggest at least weekly and even daily for some projects. They have been beneficial when we have used them when leading multi-disciplinary project teams with people who may not have much project management experience. As they are so easy to set up and understand, it’s a really good tool to use with project managers and non-project managers alike.
What should you be mindful of when using Kanban boards?
In my opinion, one thing to be wary of with Kanban boards is that, although it’s an excellent tool to visualise the volume of tasks in progress, it can sometimes miss the size of tasks to be carried out. This is something you need to be mindful of, particularly if your team carries out lots of different functions or manages a variety of clients and projects.
Kanban is a really good tool to facilitate short, face-to-face progress meetings, however there’s also a variety of software solutions available that allow you to use Kanban electronically and with virtual/remote teams. One example we’ve discovered is Asana, which integrates with Microsoft teams and so is great to use remotely.