sticky notes

When a Kanban Board and Project Management are a great match.

April 15, 2020

It’s a matter of weeks until we can start trumpeting about the new ProWorkflow Kanban Board. The vibe we are getting is that many of our clients are just as excited about this as we are. 

So in anticipation to the big day, we thought it was a good idea to have a look at Kanban Boards and how they fit in with Project Management.

Kanban boards and the big appeal.

You may not realise it, but you are probably familiar with Kanban boards.  They look like a whiteboard with columns and cards or sticky notes. Each column on the board represents a step in the workflow. Each card represents a piece of work.

In its simplest form it works like this: When you are ready to start a new task, you move the task from the ‘To-Do’ column to the ‘Active’ column and work on it until it’s finished. The task then gets moved to the ‘Done’ column. Easy as that. 

The big appeal of the Kanban Board is its highly visual simplicity. 

Science backs up this Kanban benefit: The brain processes visual information about 60,000 times faster than words.  As a result, Kanban boards are very effective in showing work progress in a flash of time, but it also is good at highlighting where the potential bottlenecks are. It’s no surprise people are drawn to it. 

But it would be unfair to reduce Kanban to just a few sticky notes on the wall. Behind the board hides an entire approach.

The Kanban board is merely the signalling device to support companies following the Kanban methodology. 

How the Kanban boards came about.

The history of Kanban is renowned: Toyota tweaked the ideas of Just-in-Time  (JIT) manufacturing and called it Lean Manufacturing. The ground-breaking idea being that production would be dictated by customer demand rather than just pushing products out onto the market and waiting for them to be sold. This idea was combined with a Japanese supermarket system that used signal cards when product stock was running low. Both ideas ‘had a baby together’ and the Kanban System was born. 

It didn’t take long for Kanban to venture from the automotive industry into other production lines. The Software Development world jumped on board and from there it was applied into a wide range of complex commercial sectors such as IT, marketing and so on. 

Kanban shines in its simple representation of complex processes. It is highly regarded in companies that deal with always changing customer requirements. Kanban allows teams to change priorities, re-organize or switch focus fast.

Are the Project Management bells ringing?

Which Projects Benefit Most From Kanban?

We mentioned before that Kanban boards are highly visual. If you are a highly graphicly inclined person, Kanban boards might well talk to you just for that reason alone. As we mentioned earlier, a visual image is incredibly powerful and a very effective communicator. Even if you don’t subscribe to the Methodology, to many people Kanban boards are a pleasure to work with. 

As for the reasons business embrace Kanban? There are definitely the subscribers to the Kanban methodology.  One of the big draws is that Kanban is respectful toward existing processes and hierarchy. In other words, introducing it won’t cause a massive shake-up. 

As for the types of business that would suit a Kanban approach, these are some project management criteria that are a good match with the Kanban methodology: 

  • Once you start working on a project, you keep focussing on it continuously, until it is ready to be delivered to your customer.
  • There is still a bit of room for improvement with your workflows.
  •  Your team is regularly overburdened with too much work (The Kanban Methodology puts a limit on the amount of work a Team can deal with while maintaining optimal efficiency).
  • Your business is not in the market for a big overhaul of the processes, rather they are looking at gentle improvements.
  • Your team’s priorities can change fairly suddenly. You’re dealing with the type of Projects that demand flexibility.
  • Your customers’ needs are the top priority and you handle Projects accordingly.

These criteria rest on the foundations of the Kanban Methodology.  Clearly, there is much more to the Kanban Methodology than we could outline in this single blog. 

We can’t wait to introduce you to our ProWorkflow Task Kanban Board. Until then, we’re hoping you are already enjoying our new Kanban-inspired Project Board