Though kanban is a process developed by Toyota in its factories over 60 years ago, it has grown as a methodology and has been embraced as a tool for managing tasks in projects.
One of the things that kanban offers the project manager is a centralized place in which to manage lists, tasks and files. This fosters collaboration, which in turn helps make your project more efficient and productive.
Kanban boards, especially kanban board software, help teams focus on status rather than deadlines and in so doing stay dedicated to each step on the path to a project’s completion, so nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
Any project big or small can benefit from using kanban boards to manage tasks. But first, what are the three basic components that make up a kanban board.
What Makes Up a Kanban Board
Let’s start with the kanban board is the foundation on which your kanban process lies. It’s inherently flexible and can be adapted to many kinds of project work, from Toyota’s car manufacturing example to software development.
The beauty of the Kansan board is that you can use one or many to manage different teams or aspects of a larger project. But first, let’s outline what makes up the kanban board.
- Board The board is the project, the whole thing from start to finish, which is laid out visually for all to see.
- List/Lane These are the related cards that make up the tasks, usually organized by a specific phase of the project, which lives on the kanban board.
- Card This is one item of a task and is part of the list/lane on the board.
How to Use Kanban Boards
There’s a lot more background to kanban, and if you’re interested in a deeper dive, then take a moment to read learn more about Kanban. But let’s just jump right into how we can apply this methodology to project management.
Cards are not static. They represent tasks on your board and therefore, like any tasks in a project, you’re going to want the option to change them. Whether that’s a scheduling change or just moving a task from an in-progress status to a completed status, you have control over tracking that tasks throughout the lifecycle of the project. And don’t forget to give each card a deadline or else the work will never get done.
The Kanban board is a great platform to encourage collaboration or simply to share and help communicate that project status to those who need that information, such as sponsors or stakeholders. You can invite team members to share boards or just cards. Once that person is shared on a card or board, they now can add and move cards, comment, edit and attach documents as needed. They can also initiate discussions right on the card and comment on the task. This way teams are working together at the task level to solve problems and move the project forward. If you just want to keep someone abreast of progress, you can share without giving them permission to edit the cards.
While a task is part of the larger project, that doesn’t mean it’s without a micro-process of its own. Kanban allows you to attach a checklist to each card so you can break down a task to the component steps that need to be taken to carry it to completion. This allows you to make sure that ever point on the map from starting to finishing a task is hit and marked off. You can also set up automated reminders when your kanban is part of a project management software tool, which further helps you and your team remain on task.
Projects are made of so many tasks that you can get lost in the chaos. You lose the forest for the trees, as they say. So maybe what you need is to see just that part of the woods you’re working on cutting down. That’s what kanban boards can do. You can limit the amount of task lists team members have access to, for example having a list of Work In Progress (WIP), which can limit the amount of cards in a column. This keeps them focused and on track.
By using kanban boards you and your team can easily visualize and manage how work flows through the life cycle of your project. This makes the process simple to comprehend and helps you to manage task dependencies. You and your team can use this the workflow better to address it more efficiently.
Another project management process aided by kanban boards is the allocation of resources and assigning work. By tracking your resources through this method you can make sure they are allocated more effectively. This helps keeps the project schedule from being delayed. Start by creating teams, assigning team members tasks and then collaborating with your team to prioritize that work, all on your kanban board, which helps the process run smoothly.
Personal Task Management
As suited to collaboration as kanban might be, it can also be used to manage your personal to-do lists. There will be project work that rests solely on your shoulders, and these tasks need management too. Team members as well will have work that falls to them alone to complete, whether that’s filling in timesheets or submitting holiday and vacation days. You can automate routine tasks that are repeated, so you don’t have to continually add them, and you get also get notifications.
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These are just some of the ways a kanban board can apply to project management. You’ll find that there are many others, as the methodology is flexible enough to adapt to personal and professional task management. Kanban boards can help with improving your team’s efficiency, helping you be more productive with your time and make managing projects easier.