A Look At The Kanban Approach To Project Management

by Sachin

More than 95% of organizations believe project management is critical to their organizational success. If teams can’t manage their projects properly, it is almost impossible to meet key performance metrics like profitability. The job is that much harder when you include incredibly complex products and development teams scattered across the globe. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you keep up, like Kanban for instance. Let’s take a look at the Kanban approach to project management, and how you can implement the methodology in your organization.

An Introduction To Kanban

The Kanban methodology originated in Japan and the term comes from the Japanese word for card or visual sign, which is the basis of the whole system. The original Kanban system was used by the Toyota company to identify when inventory needed to be restocked and used physical note cards. This system ensured that work stations didn’t run out of inventory, and came with tons of added benefits. 

The Kanban system did a lot to eliminate unnecessary trips to deliver materials that weren’t needed and simplified inventory management. The same process was also used to trigger the assembly of products. This allowed managers to prevent wasting time and resources assembling items unless there was a clear need for it. 

Kanban also laid the groundwork for just-in-time manufacturing. Kanban boards were created to track work that was more complex than pulling parts from a bin, assembling the item and passing it downstream. Kanban quickly gained in popularity, and is now being used by development teams around the world and across all industries.

An Overview Of Kanban Boards

Kanban boards are mostly used to track the work to be done and its progress. The most basic boards have three columns or lanes of work: “to do”, “in progress” and “done”. However, teams can add more columns so that the Kanban board represents their particular workflow. Software development teams may choose to have steps like “software design”, “software development”, “testing” and “customer review”, for example. 

When you’re using a Kanban board, the cards for each work unit or task are moved from left to right as work is done. For instance, the card for a software update moves from development to testing. A different card for a bug fix or future software release could sit on a different part of the Kanban board. This allows managers to easily track the state of every project based on the location of the Kanban cards, and add new items (and separate with swim lanes) as work is completed. 

Kanban boards can also be tied to strategic level planning. You can use them to group initiatives into various lanes, for instance. Each initiative could be broken down into tasks like creating new apps or migrating legacy software, among other things.

If you want to understand the ins and outs of Kanban, you can learn more at Kanbanize. They discuss how digital Kanban boards allow you to coordinate large projects and dispersed work groups using the same software. They also explain how Kanban software allows you to track project metrics like cycle time and lead time, and implement controls like setting work-in-progress limits and prioritize given tasks. 

Digital Kanban software even lets you immediately flow down management decisions to your team, such as when you put stop signs on blocked cards so that people know not to work any further on that task. This allows teams to be free to work on more pressing work.

The Benefits Of Kanban Boards

Kanban boards are a natural fit with agile project management, and they’re the ideal choice for managing “sprints” or short software development cycles. You can run through as many iterations as necessary, and your Kanban system can keep up. This is far faster and cheaper than the waterfall software development process. 

Another great thing about Kanban tools is that you can get input from other managers or stakeholders much faster and easier. With Kanban, you’ll be able to get the customer’s feedback at the end of every cycle. This allows you to get to a minimum viable product as soon as possible, whether you’re dealing with hardware or software. 

You can use the same process to create the new and improved next-generation once the MVP has been rolled out. More importantly, everyone knows exactly where the project is simply by checking out the Kanban board. Operations are more transparent, which builds trust with your customers while reducing project risk.

Agile project management is a win-win for clients and project managers, and Kanban is one of the best methods to use when managing agile projects. So, make sure that you learn everything Kanban has to offer, and how you can use it in your organization to maximize throughput and streamline your workflows.

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