A Kanban board is often summed up as the evolution of sticky notes and dry erase markers that keeps your team members informed of task assignments, due dates, and any other relevant information in one, easy-to-understand place.

With the amount of work that goes into any field, from software development to marketing, the benefits of using a Kanban board as a part of your project management strategy are great in number.

Read on to find out what Kanban project management is, its core principles, benefits, and how you can use it for your projects.

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What’s a Kanban board?

A Kanban board consists of a series of cards and columns, representing individual tasks and their stages. Stages could be titled ‘pending’, ‘to-do’, ‘work in progress’, or ‘completed’ for example, and refer to the status of the task.

Each card is assigned to a team member who’s responsible for completing the task and moving the card from one column to the next until the project is completed.

This tool is part of the Agile project management framework and is used by Agile teams to visualize workflow and maximize efficiency. You can learn more about the difference between Kanban and Scrum here.

They also are usually governed by something call Work in Progress Limits. WIP limits are constraints on how many work items (cards) are actively being worked on at any given time. They can apply at the individual, team, and even organizational levels, however, they’re most commonly used to manage capacity on team Kanban boards.

What is Kanban project management?

Kanban project management is a methodology in which a project’s workflow is visualized and broken down into actionable pieces. Workers in a Kanban team are assigned tasks and focus solely on their own work.

The method originated from Toyota’s “Just-in-time” (JIT) production approach implemented in the 1940s and has evolved since.

When to use a Kanban tool? (and when not to)

It’s important to consider if a Kanban tool is the best way to manage your projects. This will depend on the size and preferences of your team, and the specifics of your organization, work, and project.

You can also use these questions in your decision-making process:

How much structure does your team need?

One of the benefits of Kanban is its flexibility— it favors continuous change throughout a project, unlike frameworks like Scrum where you might not be able to make changes during a sprint.

The Kanban system is useful for non-iterative projects where tasks don’t go through phases multiple times. Iterative projects like app feature development, where you might go back to design several times, aren’t ideal for the Kanban framework.

While the Kanban framework is used across many industries and disciplines, it works particularly well for organizations that have a continuous workflow such as marketing, events, or publishing.

Do you have a lot of task dependencies?

Kanban works best when each task can be completed within the same team, without too many dependencies. For this reason, it’s not well-suited to complex projects that require multiple tasks, stages, and owners. It also isn’t practical for projects where most tasks require shared resources.

The core principles of Kanban project management

Here are 4 essential aspects of Kanban project management:

#1: Current workflow

Kanban’s flexibility means that it can be implemented within your existing workflows without being disruptive.

#2: Incremental changes

Kanban’s philosophy is based on making incremental (small) changes that revolutionize your workflow rather than radical changes that often lead to doubts and resistance.

#3: Respect current processes and roles

The Kanban methodology doesn’t bulldoze your existing process and roles. It allows the project team to decide and implement changes where needed.

#4: Inspire company-wide leadership

Kanban’s “small changes for evolution” philosophy drives all team members towards continuous improvement to reach optimum performance.

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3 benefits of Kanban for project management

The Kanban method provides 3 key benefits:

#1: Boosts focus

Online project management software, like a digital Kanban board, makes it easy for team members to understand their responsibilities and stake in the project. By removing other distractions, an employee can completely focus on their work, knowing that their colleagues are handling everything else.

#2: Improves communication

Research shows that most companies struggle, with 8 out of 10 people rating their business’ communication as either average or poor. An online Kanban board facilitates better communication as team members gain a better understanding of project needs. The ability to add comments to cards also helps with this.

#3: Improves organization skills

A report from earlier this year revealed that less than 14% of people believe their company has excellent project management efficiency. Organizations can solve this by using Kanban project management since it improves planning, prioritizing, and tracking. Software like monday.com also allows teams to bring all of their work into one place, including dynamic Kanban boards.

How to use a Kanban board for project management

1 Choose your Kanban software

A Work OS with Kanban functionality enables project managers to create entire boards with a few clicks. It’s also easier to keep Kanban cards up-to-date and manage the workflow digitally.

Most software also provides templates to create boards for each project and customize everything within it, from color to cycle time.

2 Create a Kanban board

A few simple steps will get you started:

  1. Identify the major processes in your workflow.
  2. Choose an appropriate template for this workflow.
  3. With the template as a guide, edit the columns.
  4. Create cards for each task.
  5. Update all required details for each card. Details include:
    1. Assigned members
    2. Due dates
    3. Comments
    4. Description
  6. Place cards in their respective columns.

When there are multiple projects, managers can use the Kanban framework to create numerous boards.

3 Move cards along the workflow

After a Kanban board is created, the focus turns to task completion.

Once a phase of a task is complete, its card is moved to the next column in the Kanban workflow. For example, a writer can complete their draft and move their card to the Review column. An editor can take over from there.

If changes are needed, then the task can be moved back to the previous column, and managers/supervisors can use the comments to outline necessary changes.

Kanban boards help managers quickly identify workflow issues since cards in a problem area tend to pile up.

4 Analysis

Project managers can track the average length a card takes to move through the workflow and see how many tasks were finished in a specific time frame.

Platforms such as monday.com allow for more comprehensive metric measurement since they have dynamic templates that allow for multiple views, including a Kanban view.

What features should you look for in a Kanban tool?

If you’re ready to choose a good Kanban tool software, it helps to learn about the kind of features available so you can make the right choice for your team. In this section, we’ll take a look at some key features worth considering and also look at how monday.com compares against each.

Intuitive and easy-to-use interface

When you’re dedicating so much time to dealing with the vagaries of project management, the last thing you want is a complicated tool that leaves you drained and spent.

monday.com is a Work OS that can help you build your ideal Kanban tool, suited to your team’s needs and preferences.

work OS monday.com showing multiple views

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Here’s how:

  • Over 200 preloaded templates to get you started
  • Simple drag-and-drop functionality
  • No training or onboarding required because our super-simple and visual design allows anybody to get started

Visual flexibility

Kanban is primarily a visual workflow so it’s a no-brainer that your Kanban tool should allow you to see your data the way you like it.

You’ll want a tool that allows you to track your team’s overall progress, as well as the workload of your team members, and who’s working on what.

Check out the Kanban construction workflow below that allows you to see the big picture, and view the status of each project at a glance.

construction projects by phase in Kanban style

With a visually-pleasing platform like monday.com, you’ll not only be able to see your project data the way you choose to, but you can also share or export them as beautiful images.

Customizations

To cater to the needs and preferences of your team, choose software that allows you to customize your board and Kanban options easily.

This can include different features such as color, advanced sharing options, and the ability to easily add columns.

Meanwhile, here are a few ways to customize your board:

  • Update your workflow by adding new columns
  • Edit project information to reflect new changes
  • Use one of our brilliant customizable templates. Take a look at our Project Tracker template below

screenshot of monday.com project tracker template showing status of different projects

Centralized communication

You’ll want a project management tool that allows you to keep track of everything in one place.

monday.com makes it simple to add comments, share files, and send updates — being able to work with team members within the same platform saves time spent in meetings and email back-and-forths.

You can upload documents and images, share feedback and updates, and communicate with your team, whether they are working from the living room, office, or on the go.

Automations

To save time and the hassle of working on repetitive tasks, choose software that can allow you to automate certain aspects of your workflow.

For instance, you can have the software send out a reminder to your team ahead of a deadline. Or, you can send out a notification when there’s an update to task status.

monday.com system showing automation examples

It takes just seconds to set up notifications on monday.com.

There are unlimited automation recipes that can take care of routine tasks so that you can focus on the important stuff.

Integrations

Choose a Kanban software that integrates with tools you’re already using, like communication, file sharing, email, calendar, and productivity apps. Moving your data across tools and apps should be a seamless process.

monday.com does a great job here, offering 40+ integrations across departments.

This means:

  • All your data is updated in a single space
  • Everyone has access to the same data
  • You can quickly import or export your project information between tools
  • You don’t need to switch between tools, you can just see your work where you need to

Kanban project management for the masses

Kanban project management is a quick and efficient way to execute projects. It breaks down complex projects into smaller pieces and enables transparency throughout the team.

To ensure your entire team is on track, you can use monday.com’s weekly-to-do list template to quickly create a Kanban board and gain oversight on team tasks and progress.

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