A Kanban board is often summed up as the evolution of sticky notes and dry-erase markers: an organizational system that keeps your team members informed about task assignments, due dates, and any other relevant information in one, visually intuitive place. And visual organization is, of course, crucial to success in any field, from software development to marketing; so the benefits of using a Kanban board as a part of your project management strategy are not to be overlooked.
Read on to find out what Kanban project management is, its core principles, benefits, and how you can use it for your projects with monday.com.
What is a Kanban board
A Kanban board is a project management tool that consists of a series of cards and columns representing individual tasks and their stages.
For example, stages could refer to the status of the task and be titled “pending,” “to-do,” “work in progress,” or “completed.” 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 Scrum 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.
David Anderson’s 5 components of Kanban boards
The Kanban system has significantly evolved since it was developed in the 1940s to help Toyota optimize its manufacturing processes. David Anderson, a pioneer in applying the Kanban system in the software and services industry, played a big role in this. Specifically, he identified five essential components of Kanban boards that are often used today. These include:
- Visual signals: Kanban boards should clearly visualize the workflow and the status of each work item, making it easy to understand the progress and identify potential bottlenecks
- Columns: One of the distinctive features of a Kanban board is the presence of columns, which represent individual tasks or activities that make up a larger workflow. Work items move through these columns until they are finished.
- Work-in-progress (WIP) limits: Limiting the number of work items in progress at any given time helps avoid overloading the team and ensures a smooth and predictable flow of work
- Commitment point: Kanban teams typically maintain a backlog for their board, which serves as a repository for project ideas suggested by customers or team members. The team can select ideas from the backlog when they are ready to work on them. The commitment point is the stage at which the team decides to pick up an idea from the backlog and begin work on the project.
- Delivery point: The delivery point is the ultimate endpoint of a Kanban team’s workflow, which is usually when the product or service is delivered to the customer. The team’s primary objective is to move the work items from the commitment point to the delivery point as quickly as possible, and the time elapsed between these two points is referred to as the Lead Time. Kanban teams consistently strive to improve their processes and minimize Lead Time.
What are the key elements of a Kanban board
Whether it’s a physical system made with Post-it notes or a digital board, part of project management software, any Kanban board will have the following components:
- Columns: These are the various stages of the team’s workflow, such as “To Do,” “In Progress,” and “Done,” and they are visualized as columns on the board.
- Cards: These are individual units of work, such as tasks or projects, that move through the workflow stages on the board.
- Work-in-progress (WIP) limits: These are the maximum number of work items that can be in each workflow stage at any given time.
- Swimlanes: Swimlanes are horizontal divisions that can be utilized to separate and categorize various activities, such as by team or department.
- Tags: Card tags, also known as labels, are a convenient and efficient method for categorizing, arranging, and filtering your cards, providing context, emphasizing critical tasks, and assisting in locating the tasks that require attention to achieve particular objectives.
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 on a Kanban board. Workers in a Kanban team are assigned tasks and focus solely on their own work.
The core principles of Kanban project management
Here are four essential aspects of Kanban project management:
1. Easy implementation
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 changes that revolutionize your workflow rather than radical changes that often lead to doubts and resistance.
3. Respect for 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. Inspiring company-wide leadership
Kanban’s “small changes for evolution” philosophy drives all team members towards continuous improvement to reach optimum performance. Execute them all using the Kanban View on monday.com.Get started
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.
3 benefits of Kanban boards for project management
The Kanban board method provides three key benefits:
1. Boosts focus
Visualizing work with Kanban boards 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 communication, with 32% of people believing that communication with clients and co-workers has become more of a challenge in the past 12 months. 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. Enables effective prioritization
The Pareto principle states that 80% of all outcomes are derived from 20% of cases, pointing to how crucial prioritization is for effective work. By enabling prioritization, Kanban project management makes sure that employees are dedicating their time to tasks that actually move the needle.
How to use a Kanban board to manage your projects in monday.com
1. Create a monday.com board
In order to use the Kanban board system within monday.com, you’ll first need to have a board in your account. To add a new board, click on the “+ Add” button on the left pane on your screen and then select “New Board.”. From the same menu, you can also choose to import a new board from Excel, Google Sheets, Trello, and more, or choose from a pre-prepared template.
2. Add a Kanban view
To add the Kanban View to your board, click on the + option at the top of your board (it will say “Add View” when you hover over it) and select “Kanban”.
You can also add a new board view by clicking on “Board Power-Ups” in the upper right corner of your screen. Select “Board Views” and choose “Kanban” from the Views Center.
3. Set up your Kanban view
Click on the cogwheel icon on the top right of your view to open up the Settings menu.
Follow these steps to set up your Kanban view:
- Kanban column: Select the Status Columns you want to showcase in your Kanban View in the “Kanban Column” section of Settings
- Cover columns: Select one or more Files Columns to be displayed as a cover on your Kanban cards in the “Cover Columns” section
- Card columns: Select the column information from your board that you’d like to have displayed directly on your Kanban cards so you can see this information at a glance
- Divide by groups: Click the “Divide by groups” box at the bottom of your Settings menu to view your Kanban cards according to the groups they belong to on your board
Once your Kanban board is set up, you can easily add new cards, edits card, and move cards.
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4. Move cards along the workflow
After you create your Kanban board, the focus shifts 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.
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.
On monday.com, you can use dynamic templates for more comprehensive metric measurements.
What features should you look for in a Kanban board tool?
If you’re ready to choose a Kanban board software, it’s helpful 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 what monday.com offers for 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.
monday work management can help you build your ideal Kanban tool suited to your team’s needs and preferences.
- Simple drag-and-drop functionality
- No training or onboarding required: our super simple and visual design allows anybody to get started
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. See the big picture and view the status of each project at a glance.
The monday.com Work OS is built upon the foundation of flexibility, allowing all team members to make changes and scale as projects grow. You’ll find it’s simple to drag and drop your Kanban columns, so they’re in the order that makes most sense at the time. Even change the order of your specific items by moving them within or across your columns
To cater to the needs and preferences of your team, choose software that allows you to customize your board and Kanban options easily. In monday, we let you customize your boards through
- Color coding your cards, columns, and statuses
- Adding subitems to break up your item’s action items into more specific steps
- Filesharing abilities so specific images can populate in your boards
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. This is highly helpful, as 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.
To save time and the hassle of working on repetitive tasks, choose software that allows 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.
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.
Choose a Kanban board 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 72+ integrations across departments.
- 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
Frequently asked questions
Can Kanban be used for both small and large projects?
Kanban is a versatile project management methodology that can be applied to both small and large projects. Its flexibility allows teams to adapt the Kanban framework to their specific needs and project size, making it scalable and effective in a variety of contexts.
Is Kanban suitable for remote or distributed teams?
Kanban is highly suitable for remote or distributed teams. Its visual nature and emphasis on transparency and collaboration make it easier for team members to stay aligned and updated on work progress, even when working remotely. Online Kanban tools and digital boards further enhance the effectiveness of Kanban in remote team environments.
What can a Kanban board show when tracking team progress?
One of the most powerful aspects of a Kanban board is that it can show how much work each team member has. This is a powerful tool for managers who want to track their team’s progress and see how each team member is getting along.
Execute Kanban board project management for teams on monday.com
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 one of monday.com’s Kanban templates to quickly create a Kanban board and gain oversight on team tasks and progress.