Kanban Project Management: Everything You Need To Know


Lately, a project management technology that has been making quite a buzz in the services sector is Kanban. The flexibility allowed by this framework in terms of strategies and execution of projects makes it a favorite among every project management team. But, what is Kanban project management all about?

Everything you need to know

Kanban project management focuses on doing only what is needed. Not an inch more or less than that. Though every project team works with this objective, somehow most fail. Kanban methodology is specially designed with this motto. By working only on the relevant things at a time, the chances of work redundancies are eliminated. The productivity is increased and things get done faster and efficiently.

The most important element of Kanban project management is the task board, which is termed as the Kanban board. Every task proposed to be undertaken under Kanban methodology revolves around this board. Let us understand what a Kanban board is and how it aids in project development.

Kanban board and its basics

The basic elements of a Kanban board include visual cards, columns, and rows that simply divide the entire workflow in a set of tasks for the team members to have a good understanding of what needs to be done. Given below is a step-by-step flow of task in a Kanban board:

  1. The first step that needs to be undertaken while working with a Kanban board is to conceptualize all the actionable tasks necessary to achieve the desired goal and have them listed on a backlog. The goal could be product development, a service project, or any other departmental goal of your organization. These tasks are generally termed as “stories” as they are written in non-technical language and include the scope of work, the purpose, assignees, and all other relevant details of the concerned task.
  2. The team agrees on the task they need to work upon and pick the same to place it on the board.
  3. The board consists of three basic columns “to do”, “work in progress”, and “completed”. Most organizations further divide the Kanban board into further columns based on the complexity of the project.

· The tasks, which are picked by the team from the backlog are first included in the “to do” column. The moment a task is entered in this time, the lead time gets started. The lead time is the total time required for a task to reach the final column from the first column.

  • Once the team starts working on a particular task, the same moves to the “work in progress” column. A very essential feature of Kanban project management is the limit imposed on the number of actionable tasks that can be undertaken at a time. Once the same is completed, the team moves on to the next tasks.

· The completed tasks are moved on to the final column when they are ready to be handed over to the clients.

  1. If further segregation of tasks is needed based on the type of service, or team or any other criteria, horizontal rows can be added.

This is how the workflow moves through a Kanban project, keeping the entire team abreast of what the fellow teammates are working on.

Why Kanban project management is advantageous?

  • The tool is easy to understand and operate. Without much training or knowledge, teams can make use of a Kanban board to improve the workflow.
  • With an undivided focus on important tasks at a time, it results in increased efficiency and reduced time cycle.
  • The works get divided into compact tasks, which becomes easier to work on.
  • It allows enough flexibility to the users to adjust according to their business processes.

However, this methodology is not always fruitful and is not recommended to be used in the following circumstances:

  • If you are looking to update your existing project development strategy and replace it with an agile technology, then Kanban isn’t the right choice for you. It cannot be implemented as an independent tool and needs to be merged with another tool.
  • If meeting strict deadlines is what your organization deals with most, then Kanban might not be an ideal choice. Though it focuses on reducing timelines, the fact that no timeframes are assigned to every phase of the work can sometimes prove to be a hurdle in meeting the deadlines.

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About the Author: Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont is a senior reporter on the Guardian's Global Development desk. He has reported extensively from conflict zones including Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East and is the author of The Secret Life of War: Journeys Through Modern Conflict. Email: peter@thehearus.com