Productive Project Management: Kanban Team
A smooth, efficient workflow is essential to a successful project. The Kanban Method has exploded in popularity as a way to optimise processes in all kinds of teams, especially in Agile software development. But what is Kanban and what makes a Kanban team?
What is Kanban?
Kanban – sometimes translated as “signboard”, “billboard” or “visual signal” – is a workflow management method with a long history. Invented in the 1940s as a way to improve manufacturing productivity, it has since been implemented with great success in many types of projects to visualise and manage processes. In 2007, David J Anderson expanded and improved that approach to make it suitable for knowledge workers.
One of the main ways the Kanban Method differs from traditional work management methods is that it is a pull system. In a push system, management pushes tasks onto a team regardless of their current work burden. A Kanban pull system, in comparison, means that the team pulls through new work when they have the capacity to handle it. This results is a more efficient workflow, faster delivery times and increased customer satisfaction.
Key characteristics of a Kanban team
So what exactly makes a team a Kanban team? The most prominent characteristics that define the Kanban Method are:
- The workflow, and the progress of tasks through the workflow, is shown visually
- Workflows are split into process states (e.g. “To-Do”, “Doing”, “Done”)
- Scope of work is split into individual tasks
- Work in Progress (WIP) is limited to a certain number of work items at any time
- Output and flow metrics are measured
Let’s take a closer look at how each of these characteristics apply to Kanban teams in practice.
The visual nature of Kanban makes it incredibly effective for both teams and project managers – the visualisation of the workflow lets Kanban teams know their priorities and project managers to check tasks status. The Kanban board is the central component of this strategy.
Physical boards are still used by some Kanban teams – having this visual aid prominently displayed in a workspace means each team member could check project status with ease. However, as modern teams combine multiple department roles or are physically separated, digital solutions have become the norm. Many teams use Trello, a simple, user-friendly project management tool to get started with Kanban.
States and Tasks
For a Kanban board to function effectively, both states and tasks must be clearly defined. Think about your workflow – what states does a work item or task move through from client request to completion? Are there any states where approval or documentation is needed to proceed? Some teams use a process flowchart to define these states and then map them to a Kanban board.
Splitting scope into tasks is equally important in Kanban. Tasks should represent a real customer value and they should be individually releasable. Kanban teams base their delivery commitments on past performance only. This makes for fast and accurate project forecasting.
Limiting Work in Progress
When do you feel most efficient – when you can focus on one thing at a time, or when you have multiple tasks piling up on your plate?
Possibly the most important aspect of the Kanban method is the Work In Progress (WIP) limit. This means your team don’t pull through any new work item from the “To-Do” state until they have the capacity to do so. This keeps work moving quickly through the pipeline, reduces lead times and stops work in progress building up.
Optimising the WIP limit is fundamentally important for Kanban teams. We highly recommend trying different WIP limits to find which ones work best for your projects. A good starting point is 1-2 items less than the number of people in your team.
Tracking & Analysing Kanban Metrics
Kanban is a data-driven project management method. By consistently tracking team performance, this data can be used to spot issues as they arise and make accurate predictions for future delivery dates. We’ve already mentioned that Kanban is visual – analysing the essential Kanban metrics is no different.
Productivity, efficiency and delivery times are best analysed using charts – you may have heard of the Cycle Time Scatterplot, Throughput Histogram and Cumulative Flow Diagram. Kanban analytics let you understand your project status and team performance in seconds.
WE UNCOVER THE EFFICIENCY OF YOUR WORKFLOW
Optimise your performance with Kanban analyticsExplore Your Data Now
Becoming a Kanban Team
There are countless benefits of implementing Kanban, but where is best to start? Teams taking their first steps into Kanban often use Trello to start visualising their workflow – it’s simple and straightforward to get started. Trello Kanban boards are ideal to define your work process and tasks and setting WIP limits.
Are you looking to implement the Kanban method? Have you already started using Kanban? What part of the transition have you found most challenging? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams become more efficient through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.
A Big Thank You from Nave!
The Cycle Time Histogram for Trello shows the overall distribution of the completion times of the tasks in your pro… https://t.co/sVpW5si6qAFollow
In Kanban, throughput is one of the key measures of flow efficiency. Learn how to track your workflow performance o… https://t.co/I3nrBKlLrRFollow
Nave’s range of Kanban analytics helps you spot performance trends at a glance. Select your platform and improve yo… https://t.co/B7AFPCmi3LFollow
Effective changes are built upon data. In this article we’ll take a look at how you can use Kanban analytics to und… https://t.co/sOkemEJmCuFollow
Measure and improve your delivery performance with our advanced Kanban analytics for Asana projects. See a dashboar… https://t.co/aS9s3asn1tFollow
Are you ready to recap the benefits Kanban analytics can bring to your workflows? Choose your platform, and get sta… https://t.co/r2MHJRo9wWFollow
What would the perfect company be like and how to improve people commitment within an organization.… https://t.co/irMK4TYfRCFollow
Immersive charts for your Jira projects. Get more done, faster, with Nave analytics on Jira. Start your free 14-day… https://t.co/8x6cRaMPA3Follow
Prioritization in Kanban backlog revolves around your customer value and business needs. Find out how to grow as a… https://t.co/2x8R5wF7q9Follow
Rely on data, not instincts. Nave Power-Up for Trello builds immersive analytical charts over your Trello boards. T… https://t.co/bz3R5X2a0SFollow
Try our advanced Kanban analytics suite for free on your favorite tool and start leveraging the power of data-drive… https://t.co/e3sQfTPlpAFollow
Everyone wants to run their projects more effectively. That’s where Kanban comes in – the Japanese system that revo… https://t.co/pOPywTYnPZFollow
When we adopt Kanban, we want to achieve shorter lead time, higher delivery rate and better flow efficiency. How do… https://t.co/ApzaYG3wXBFollow
Are you ready to recap the benefits Kanban analytics can bring to your process? Get started with Nave today!… https://t.co/Wns13SVyK9Follow
To make your processes more efficient, first you need to identify where you are falling behind. Learn how to recogn… https://t.co/pgaqhrJQ2ZFollow
Take your training and consultancy sessions to a whole new level. With Kanban analytics on their existing tools, yo… https://t.co/a8OUJtkhg8Follow
There are three ways in which leaders can influence culture: how they make decisions, how they communicate, and the… https://t.co/FbOGIYNoCzFollow