An Introduction to Using Kanban in Project Management
By Maria Thomas Posted September 9, 2019
Kanban is a visual framework used to implement Agile project management that helps small, incremental updates to projects or systems. To understand this concept clearly, let’s start with the origin of Kanban, the principles of Kanban, and its advantages. Additionally, you will understand when to use and when not to use the Kanban methodology in Project Management.
Kanban Project Management is one of the most widely used Project Management methodologies. This method matches almost every team and aim. It helps teams handle the progress of responsibilities as the team operates toward shared goals.
The Origin of Kanban
Kanban arose from Toyota’s “just-in-time” production method meaning doing only what is required, when it is required, and in the amount required. The main idea of Kanban is to:
- Reduce excessive work, discrepancies, and unreasonable requirements
- Make the process more effective, and teams more productive.
By applying the Kanban method to project management, project workflow becomes clear and transparent. Every member of the team can see who operates on a specific task, what is being operated on, and so on. As a result, the teams can focus on the right tasks for any given period.
Core principles of Kanban
Kanban is an easy-to-adapt framework that doesn’t require extensive training for most participants. It is also simple for teams to get started with or overlap on top of existing workflows. Many modern project teams are beginning to experiment with Kanban Project Management to find out if it lives up to the hype of delivering enhanced productivity, greater quality and decreased waste.
At a high level, Kanban projects must include the following principles:
Envision the workflow.
To efficiently handle the task with Kanban, one needs to be capable of visualizing it. With an ongoing, real-time Kanban board, each team member can immediately understand the tasks to be accomplished and next steps.
Limit work in progress (WIP).
Work in progress (WIP) limits restrain the maximum number of work details in the various steps (kanban board columns) of the workflow. The application of WIP limits enables the team to finish individual work items quicker, by supporting them to concentrate solely on present tasks and avoiding multitasking.
Manage and improve flow.
The progress of work or movement of work across the Kanban board is transparent. It is essential to estimate and track performance metrics, like the number of items in the process and number of items finished, to compute the average finish rate and complete cycle period.
Make workflows specific.
To enhance the effectiveness of the workflows, it is necessary to assure that the whole team is informed of the processes and procedures. Frequently examine actions within the workflow to guarantee that the actions are as productive as possible.
Once the team is up-and-running on the Kanban method, it is necessary to ensure that the whole team is aware of the procedures and processes of the methodology and are capable of identifying problems and providing feedback on the process to ensure the highest throughput.
Advantages of Kanban
The visible nature of Kanban gives individual benefit while determining if it is the appropriate project management methodology for the team. Here are some added advantages of adopting Kanban to handle projects:
With no fixed stage durations, Kanban is a running prototype where priorities are re-evaluated when new tasks arise.
Kanban focuses on decreasing waste by assuring that teams do not spend time performing redundant work.
Easy to get started.
The visible nature of Kanban makes it spontaneous and simple to understand, so teams don’t have to learn a completely new methodology.
Kanban focuses on the just-in-time strategy of quality and producing work on a consistent flow.
Minimized cycle time.
In Kanban, the whole team is focused on overcoming bottlenecks to ensure that the job progresses swiftly through the processes.
When to use Kanban
Though originally designed with the production of physical goods in mind, Kanban is currently used across most industries and departments, perhaps most commonly in software or technology development. However, based on your workflow, Kanban may be the appropriate project management methodology to implement or to overlap your existing methods.
One limitation of the Kanban framework is that it can be more difficult to predict delivery timelines. It is, therefore, necessary to acknowledge the following circumstances when evaluating whether Kanban is the right method for your team:
- Does the team work without firm deadlines?
- Is continuous improvement key?
- Does the team handle change well?
- Does the team need a system that is nimble and easy to understand?
- Will the team be committed to transparency and keeping items up to date?
- Will the team be committed to focusing on a limited number of tasks at a time?
Then you are likely a candidate to use Kanban.
Where is Kanban Being Used?
One of the areas usually linked with Kanban in software development, but Kanban doesn't apply to this alone. With suitable performance and a right Kanban solution, anyone can benefit from utilizing visuals to communicate better and streamline processes. This methodology is to drive process improvements in such organizations for a productive output.
Kanban is used by teams in various settings, including supermarkets, motor assembling lines, and software development companies.
Kanban is a simple term that is easy to understand. This method maintains track of records, information about tasks, and makes it accessible exactly when the team needs them. With this project management method, the team will focus on achieving one actionable task at a time which in turn increases the effectiveness of the end-outcome and productivity of the team.