What is Kanban board and how to use [Master Guide]

Kanban Board

As a project manager, it’s essential to have a complete understanding of the tasks surrounding your project and to share them with the team to get everyone on board.

As you’ve come to realize, there are many methods and techniques that would help you enhance your project’s development. Each method shares different features that are great for some managers and not great for another. 

The truth is that not everything has to work for you. Sometimes the simplest of methods can do wonders for your project. So, in reality, you should always choose the solution that makes you thrive in every category. 

One of the solutions is the Kanban board, the perfect tool designed to simplify how you and your team look at the workflow. Throughout this article, you’ll get to see its concept, type, and origin, the rules to use it, its benefits, and mistakes to avoid.

Discover if this method could evolve how you deal with your project’s workflow.

a team managing workload with Kanban board

What’s a Kanban board

A Kanban board is a project management tool, physical or digital, that helps you visualize work and limit work-in-progress.

The goal is to give you a clear view of all of the different tasks so that you can become even more productive and deliver effective and successful projects.

Through the Kanban board, you can identify potential troubles right away, allowing you to prevent and/or eliminate them from the equation.

The agile technique uses cards and columns, which are very intuitive and easy for everyone to use.

Why is it called a Kanban board?

Kanban shares its origin with the Japanese language, dividing it into two words: “ Kan” and “Ban”. While “Kan” means “Sign”, “Ban” means “Board”, which means that by putting them together, you’ll find the word “Sign board”. 

In a more practical fashion and in the context of your own project, the Kanban board allows you and your team to have a fresh perspective on the work ahead.

Overall you have all of your tasks laid out for you to see more clearly and monitor and share them.

What are the 6 rules of the Kanban board?

1. Monitor your workflow

For every successful project, it’s a must that you’re able to visualize and monitor your workflow, along with your team’s.

Even if you’re working on an offline or online board, this is something that you must do to make sure that everything’s explicit to everyone.

2. Make sure to control your “Work in Progress”

This is important to keep things under your control during the period you work on your project along with your team. Don’t embrace new work if you’re already working on something, the same with your team.

It’s imperative that you prioritize what’s already in the pipeline. Once you’re done with the tasks at hand, evaluate what to do next.

3. Master your workflow’s management

After a while of monitoring your workflow and controlling your tasks at hand, you’ll get the practice of managing your workflow easily.

You’ll have the need and power to see which Kanban cards you can move to different Kanban columns to visualize what’s done and what needs your attention.

4. Stick to every established process

Along with the projects you’ll be working on, you’ll feel compelled to hold on to some ground rules and processes that you’re used to because it works. Always establish those rules and make sure you stick to them.

Lay them out for your team and make sure there aren’t any questions from their end, so things can run smoothly.

5. Communicate with your team

It’s crucial that you’re in constant communication with your team because, in that way, you’re able to work on your feedback toward all the tasks at hand in your Kanban board.

At the same time, you’ll receive feedback regarding improvements and notes on the tasks and even on the board itself. The goal is to work in synergy and to deliver the best product.

Read our guide and get tips to improve team communication.

6. Collaborate alongside your team and develop from within

This technique establishes a sense of improvement from every side, from you, your team, and your project.

Since evolution is a process, it’s crucial for all of you to keep evolving constantly, which means that you have to keep updated, make decisions and implement changes if need be.

Make sure to evaluate your board’s progress and define your next steps through its analysis.

Read our blog to find out why project milestones are important when managing a project.

How to use a Kanban board 

You have key elements needed for the perfect Kanban board, as shown in this template below. To use it correctly, this is how you proceed: 

Requests To-do (Max 5 tasks)Completed
Card 1Card 2Card 4
Card 3

Kanban Cards: The card is displayed inside the column, containing all the information available to do the task. You can assign and tag the person indicated for the task and comment on the progress.

Kanban Columns: There are different columns for different events, requests made to the team, to-do tasks, and finally and completed ones. The cards can move from one column to another since it has to respect each rule of the column. 

Work-in-Progress Limits: This element indicates the number of allowed tasks in a specific column. For example, you can see a maximum of 5 tasks in the to-do list. That is a motivation and prioritization technique so that you can give undivided attention to the tasks ahead.

Kanban Swimlanes: These swimlanes can separate the cards for different teams, for example.

Commitment Point: When you’re ready to prepare for the task at hand.

Delivery Point: When the tasks are finished and ready to deliver.

9 Benefits of the Kanban board

  1. Teams can grasp the concept of the tasks at hand and concentrate much better;
  2. You’ll get to track and analyze the productivity of each task;
  3. You can easily detect potential problems to find better solutions;
  4. Helps you to delegate effectively from one teammate to another;
  5. You can centralize every department onto a Kanban board;
  6. Improvement in the delivery of products and/or services;
  7. A clear view of all of the tasks at hand;
  8. Improves flexibility;
  9. Optimization of time, productivity, and efficiency.

Mistakes to avoid while using the Kanban board

  1. Don’t fail to give a full briefing on every project

Your team needs to understand the full extent of every project instead of working on any task without grasping its context.

  1. Make sure you prioritize

Every project and/or task must be prioritized according to its significance, and you and your team must respect it and give undivided attention to the tasks that need it. 

  1. You must be flexible

Don’t delude yourself. You need to be flexible to potential changes and decisions you have to make in your project’s journey. That’s the only way you and your team will evolve.

  1. Don’t try to micromanage your team.

It can be distrustful when you try to micromanage everyone in your team just to keep up to speed. Although the goal is to make sure that things are running smoothly, it’s vital that you won’t continuously ask for new updates.

With the Kanban board, you can see your team’s feedback and updates.

Instead of micromanaging your team, find out how to measure the productivity of employees.

  1. Don’t waste your time with too many meetings

The Kanban board aims to prevent useless meetings you may have thought you needed in the past. Through the optimization of your time and centralization of departments, you’re able to ask questions and give solutions through the board itself and avoid unnecessary meetings.

TIP: Read our article to learn how time tracking helps optimize your time.

  1. Don’t shy away from reviewing your own process

Throughout the journey of every project, it’s important to analyze if the process it’s still working and if it’s essential to update it.

Make sure you review your process and change it if need be. It’s always a good sign if you evaluate everything to develop your project even more.

  1. Make sure you get help from a project management tool

A project management tool it’s always a fantastic contribution to the evolution and success of your project.

You can definitely use its features to improve the quality of your work and optimize your time.

Types of Kanban board

There are two types of Kanban boards: physical and digital boards. They are both helpful and effective.

a team using a physical kanban board

Physical Kanban board

The physical Kanban board it’s a more traditional way to apply this method.

All you need is some post-its and a whiteboard, and you have a green light to move forward.

The post-its stand for the various tasks within each project, and the whiteboard can be the layout for the various columns.

Then you transport each post-it from one column to the next, respecting the rules of the Kanban board implementation.

Digital Kanban board

The digital Kanban board is a more evolved and technological method to construct this board.

Completely different from the physical board, this one is not limited since it shares many features to optimize your work quality. A software solution, such as Trello, allows you to display the many tasks by cards located in different columns.

You can invite your team to visualize to give feedback and updates about each task.

FAQs

What is the difference between a Kanban and a Scrum board?

Kanban and Scrum both complement each other in the development of projects. But while Scrum gives the structure you need for the project, Kanban is your solution to monitor all the tasks available.

Is Trello a Kanban Board?

Yes, it’s. Trello is a platform used for numerous teams across different companies. This tool can be completely customizable to match your own specificities, and it’s easily shared with your team.

Is Jira a Kanban Board? 

Through Jira, you have an interactive Kanban project template where you can customize the team’s workflow. You can also establish WIP limits and discover functions that help you prioritize what’s needed.

Is there a Kanban board in Microsoft Teams?

It’s possible to add a Kanban board to Microsoft Teams. You just need to add a tab to your Microsoft, choose VSTS, and complete the following fields: Team Project, Team, and Backlog Level fields.

Does Microsoft have a Kanban board?

With Microsoft Planner, you can create your own Kanban boards through the offered features of this tool. There are checklists, labels, and many more elements that could help you greatly in your project.

Who owns a Kanban board?

Every team of any given project.

Why is Kanban not agile? 

While agile is more deep within strong communication, extensive planning, and step-by-step events, Kanban’s goal is to facilitate all the unnecessary elements. It aims to provide a clear view of tasks and progress for everyone to see.

Conclusion

Ultimately, we can realize that the Kanban board is a massive contribution to a better evolution for yourself and your team.

You can choose whatever type you’re most comfortable with if you stick with this technique’s set of rules. You can benefit significantly from every aspect of this innovative method and deliver every product and/or service in the most influential fashion.

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