Kanban Methodology and Kanban Boards in Project Management

Introduction to Kanban Methodology: The Simplest Agile Framework


August 26th, 2019 Project Management  

Kanban is a framework that falls under the Agile project management methodologies. It was developed in the late 1940s by a Japanese engineer named Taiichi Ohno. Kanban focuses on visualizing the entire project on boards in order to increase transparency and collaboration between team members. 

Kanban is one of the simplest frameworks used as it allows project managers to efficiently manage and keep track of their projects. A distinguishing feature of Kanban framework among different Agile implementation methods is its compatibility with the existing organizational setting. Unlike other popular frameworks, Kanban believes in introducing very small but meaningful changes in the existing setup. This is liked by more traditional organizations where hierarchy and roles of functional managers are considered important.

What is Kanban?

Kanban project management methodology revolves around continuous improvement, flexibility in task management, and enhanced workflow. With this illustrative approach, the progress of the whole project can be easily understood in a glance. Through this graphical approach of Kanban boards, a new member or an external entity can understand what’s happening right now, tasks completed and future tasks.

Kanban project management revolves around the Kanban board. It is a tool that visualizes the entire project to track the flow of their project. Kanban boards indicate the current tasks that are being performed, the tasks to do in the future, and the tasks that are completed. The divided columns are interconnected and tasks are gradually pulled from the leftmost column (future tasks) to the rightmost column (completed tasks).

Kanban measures the work cycle being completed through the principle of Work in Progress (WIP). WIP has certain limits and a pre-defined specific status. Limiting WIP in order to maintain consistent standards is one of the core principles that govern the Kanban methodology. It is extremely important for the team to complete the current tasks in the prescribed order.

Principles and practices of Kanban Methodology

Kanban project management stands on four core principles and practices. The core principles of Kanban are the following:

  • Initiate with the existing workflow: Kanban emphasizes on making small and gradual changes. Therefore, the team must start with the existing workflow and continuously improve the process.
  • Limit the existing tasks: It is important for the team to realize its own limits and cap the WIP accordingly. Taking on more than you can handle will only waste time and negatively affect the project.
  • Respect existing roles and responsibilities: An important reason for Kanban’s success is that it does not require organizations to completely overhaul the existing work culture. Many organizations resist modern methodologies because they don’t feel comfortable with change. With Kanban, efficiency is improved while staying in the confines of the existing setup.
  • Encourage leadership at all levels: Traditional project management methodologies require approval from the project manager for even the smallest tasks. Kanban gives the freedom of making decisions to the individual working on the task. This grooms future leaders who continuously learn from their mistakes and improve their work.

Additionally, using the aforementioned core principles, the following practices have been established by organizations that use the Kanban methodology.

  • Visualization of workflow: The whole concept of Kanban revolves around proper visualization of the entire project. Kanban boards are used throughout the industry for this purpose. In the past, people used to get a whiteboard on wheels and use it with the help of different columns and Kanban cards. This method has now become obsolete as advanced project management programs are now readily available in the market that can make your life much simpler.
  • Reduction of WIP: WIP in case of Kanban is supposed to be according to the capability of the team. Usually, a cap is applied to WIP in order to ensure maximum efficiency. On the Kanban board, a limit is applied to the number of tasks that can be performed at once. No new task can be pulled as long as the limit is achieved, this ensures that the whole team works together and completes all related tasks around the same time.   
  • Efficient workflow management: Lead time, the complete time spent on completing a task, is an important parameter that project teams must reduce as much as possible.
  • Explicit management policies: It is important for the project team to know what they are trying to achieve. The reason behind is quite simple, when someone has a clear goal in front of them, they’ll try harder to achieve it.
  • Take feedback: At the end of the day, the most important entity for any business is the client and implementing an effective feedback system is extremely important. On the Kanban boards, a column can be assigned for feedback from either an external evaluator or the customers themselves. Through this way, the quality of the delivered work can be constantly maintained.

Differences between Kanban and Scrum

Scrum and Kanban together are considered the cornerstones of the Agile implementation methodology. According to the ‘Pulse of Profession 2017’ report by PMI, over 70% of organizations used different Agile methodologies and the largest chunk belongs to Scrum and Kanban. Both Kanban and Scrum focus on consistently delivering the product and keep iterating until perfection is achieved, however, their approach is different.

Kanban and Scrum frameworks implement Agile’s core principles, the way they do that is entirely different. Scrum revolves around a fixed-length ‘sprint’, and work is completed in small batches. In contrast to that, Kanban focuses on the continuous improvement process and tasks are performed in an orderly manner. Similarly, changes can be easily made anytime in Kanban as it is task-based while Scrum requires the completion of a single sprint before any changes can be made. This makes Kanban a suitable option for projects that are extremely versatile while Scrum is better for projects that require work to be completed in batches. Kanban also does not have any prescribed roles and no individual is responsible for the team or a task. Scrum, on the other hand, has pre-defined roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner, and team members.

Benefits of Kanban

The main selling point of Kanban framework is the fact that it significantly improves the way you can handle your projects without changing the organizational structure. Some of the benefits Kanban methodology offers are:

  • Enhanced flexibility
  • Continuous improvement
  • Increased collaboration
  • Employee empowerment
  • Smoother workflow
  • Better inventory management
  • Improved quality control

Implementing Kanban framework using Kissflow

If you find yourself in a position where you are responsible for handling an important project for your organization, don’t worry. Kissflow has your back. This innovative digital workplace is specifically designed for people who have no prior experience with different project management methodologies. The simply designed interface of Kissflow gives you all the freedom in the world to design and maintain a workflow which makes handling Kanban boards incredibly effortless. It comes equipped with thousands of templates for you to choose from as well. Similarly, Kissflow also makes collaboration extremely easy for everyone involved. Managers can track the progress of the team members in real-time and also send reminders before a deadline. Also, it seamlessly integrates with services like Gmail to ensure team members remain connected at all times and any potential delays can be curbed before it causes any delays in the project.

Although Kanban is an amazing methodology for implementing Agile principles, it comes with its fair share of restriction. Kissflow intelligently integrates your organization’s specific requirements with its powerful features and allow you to enjoy all the benefits of Kanban without worrying about anything. You can sign up for a trial today and experience the future of project management on Kissflow.