Kanban Project Management

Kanban is a common project management tool used across industries. Despite its popularity, Kanban is not very well understood by most. In order to implement any system or tool, it is crucial to understand the basics by which it stands. So we have compiled an end-to-end guide for Kanban project management in order to help people at all stages of an organization understand it conceptually.

What Is the Kanban Project Management Methodology?

Kanban is an extension of traditional project management with a creative conceptualization for execution. Project management is the practice of achieving all the project goals in given constraints. Kanban is one way to facilitate exactly that.

Kanban project management is simply a framework used to implement project goals. The Kanban way of execution is to simply lay out every single process in front of you visually. This is usually done in the form of a Kanban board that lays out various Kanban cards that represent every process in the project.

The Kanban methodology is a way to zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture so that managers don’t get stuck in the trap of tunnel vision. It is imperative to understand the demands of the overall project over the demands of individual processes and tasks. Kanban facilitates this overall perspective to ensure agile software development.

Origin of Kanban

Kanban originated in Japan over 50 years ago when the Japanese automobile giant Toyota realized that they were falling behind their American competitors in terms of efficiency and productivity. In order to overcome this weakness, Toyota started studying customers in a supermarket and their behaviour. Based on this research, Taiichi Ohno developed the Kanban methodology for Toyota which allowed them to individually assess each task in the process as a cog within a larger mechanism.

Based on Toyota’s success, David J. Anderson started working on Kanban methodology as a tool for boosting efficiency in software management. He formulated the methodology as an approach rather than a process and advocated incremental, evolutionary systems for information technology-based work. He even laid down the core principles of Kanban.

The 4 core principles of Kanban are-

  1. Start with what you’re doing.
  2. Choose evolutionary incremental changes over radical ones.
  3. Respect the current roles and responsibilities along with the current process.
  4. Encourage leadership at all levels of the organization.

These principles allow for gradual but steady and incremental change across the organization and ensure a growing trend towards efficient management and increased productivity.

Kanban Boards

Kanban boards are the fundamental tool of the Kanban methodology. The board represents the entirety of the project as it visualizes the entire workflow, with individual tasks being laid out in the process.

The most basic Kanban boards can be divided into three columns- to do, in progress, and done. All tasks can be divided into these three columns and thus be prioritized as per the workflow. The idea is to ensure that only the necessary tasks are in progress and the entire team is focused on tasks in progress so as to improve the efficiency of work. This way only the tasks that need to be done are in progress and any idle team members can be reassigned to the task for a quicker turnaround time. 

The board visualises the smallest of the tasks in the entire project and allows for each task to be prioritized. This also enhances the overall quality of the project as each task is taken care of one at a time. 

The strongest factor of the Kanban board is its simplicity. Kanban boards simplify complex workflows into three columns and focus on finishing tasks rather than complicating the process. It also allows for the proper distribution of human resource in order to achieve the most efficient results.

Benefits of the Kanban Methodology

Kanban methodology makes it very easy to manage projects compared to other contemporary methodologies. But the benefits of Kanban are also multifold and important for the success of a project. Kanban allows for the following benefits in any project.

Kanban Project management fits the requirements of any project, irrespective of its nature and scale. Any team can use this methodology to enhance their work style and efficiency over a period of time. 

Incremental evolution
Kanban project management is a constructive approach towards project management and it does not tear down existing systems but rather builds on them. Kanban advocates for small incremental changes and continuous improvements in order to achieve the best possible results in lieu of radical changes to the system.

Better focus and efficiency
The visualization of every task on the Kanban board focuses the attention of the development team on the most important tasks at a given point of time and prioritizes them. This way the entire project is completed one task at a time. This approach not only saves time but also enhances the efficiency of the team as a whole.

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Optimal utilization of resources
As all the tasks and processes are laid out on the same board, it is easy to keep a track of where the resources available are being allocated. Whether it is human resources or funds, it is very easy to restructure the allocation for optimal results when it is visualized on a single board.

Simple division of workflow
No matter the amount of work, Kanban divides everything into three columns and simply starts off the work. The simplicity of the Kanban system is universal and very easy to follow.

The popular adage in Kanban is ‘Stop starting and start finishing.’ This speaks not only for the efficiency of this approach but also for the success of it. Kanban delivers results as it offers real-time communication of capacity and involves every team member into the larger picture. This also enhances the motivation of the people involved and increases their leadership capacities. 

Kanban is a dynamic project management method that can be used for any project regardless of its scope, and thus it stands out among the other methods in the industry. 

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