What is Kanban? 5 Reasons Why Every Project Manager Endorses It

What is Kanban? 5 Reasons Why Every Project Manager Endorses It | Project Management | Emeritus

What is Kanban? Today, that is one of the foremost questions many encounter when studying project management methodologies. Classed as an Agile methodology, Kanban is said to improve the delivery of projects thanks to its visually appealing way of managing and enhancing workflow systems. According to a 2022 State of Kanban report, 86% of the companies surveyed revealed that they plan to expand their adoption of Kanban in 2023 and beyond, indicating that Kanban is here to stay. Let us, therefore, understand in detail what is Kanban and why it is useful in improving the overall efficiency of projects.

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In this blog, we will be covering the following:

  • What is Kanban and How Does It Relate to Project Management?
  • How Can Kanban Benefit Project Managers?
  • What are the Key Principles and Practices of Kanban?
  • How Can Project Managers Implement Kanban in Their Projects?
  • Want to Excel in Project Management? Discover Emeritus’ Project Management Courses

What is Kanban and How Does It Relate to Project Management?

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Kanban means signboard or visual card in Japanese. The philosophy originated in Japan and was part of Toyota’s manufacturing revolution during the 1940s to reduce waste and optimize auto production.

1. Definition

To understand what is Kanban, it can best be described as a visual method that illustrates, manages, and improves workflow systems. It helps a company visualize its flow of work and sets defined constraints, known as limits, on Work in Progress (WIP), among other things, to maintain efficiency.

2. Use in Project Management

A project manager can use Kanban to manage projects, especially in situations where the company has ongoing work that evolves constantly. They, in fact, enjoy Kanban’s flexibility and focus on visual management.

3. Kanban Boards

They provide a clear visual illustration of tasks, their status, and the overall progress of a project. A project manager also uses it to manage workloads, assign priorities, and address fluctuating requirements flexibly.

4. Comparison to Scrum

The use of Kanban and Scrum is prevalent in project management, but they are both different in their approaches. For example, Kanban follows a more fluid and continuous flow along with visual management. Scrum, on the other hand, is based on fixed timeframes and specific roles.

ALSO READ: What are the Top Strategies Used by Agile Leaders to Managing Uncertainty?

How Can Kanban Benefit Project Managers?

Now that we have looked into what is Kanban and why it is helpful in project management, let’s consider its benefits:  

1. Offers Visibility

Many project managers prefer Kanban because it translates information visually. The methodology helps to identify bottlenecks in the processes, workflow, and correlation between tasks.

2. Promotes Communication

The use of Kanban boards fosters effective communication among team members as they have a better understanding of project needs. The presence of clear and open communication improves collaboration and maximizes efficiency.

3. Ensures Prioritization

A project manager can ensure employee involvement in tasks that facilitate smooth workflow in Kanban. In fact, it optimizes the time required for the entire team to complete the work, allowing accuracy in predicting future deliveries. 

4. Improves Allocation of Resources

The allocation of resources is a critical function of project managers. They use a Kanban board to understand each team member’s task load and allocate resources accordingly. It reduces waste because it is easy to note a team’s actual burden and also assists in identifying bottlenecks.

5. Allows Continuous Improvement

It is crucial to maintaining quality in a project. A team can be productive and focused with Kanban as it helps address bottlenecks across the project. It allows teams to improve their work gradually and deliver flawless products consistently.

ALSO READ: What is the Best Project Management Software, and What are Their Benefits?

What are the Key Principles and Practices of Kanban?

1. Work Visualization

The use of Kanban boards to visualize tasks, activities, or projects is one of Kanban’s key principles. The teams use sticky notes or cards on a physical or digital board to illustrate the WIP of their projects. Each card/note represents a specific task or work item.

2. Pull System

The management of work under Kanban is flexible largely due to a pull system. It means that the system pulls work depending on the available capacity. In contrast, a push system pushes work onto team members.

3. WIP Limits

Kanban limits the number of tasks that can be in progress at any given time. A project manager can avoid burdening team members with the help of this principle. In short, the focus is on the completion of tasks rather than the initiation of new ones.

4. Flow Management

Many project managers enjoy the optimization of workflow available under Kanban. They break it down into parts on the Kanban board, enabling proactive tracking of tasks. For instance, there are categories like “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Done” on the board.

5. Feedback Loops

It is critical to have feedback loops to ensure the success of projects. An organization can respond to potential changes and enable knowledge transfer between teams. Moreover, it helps teams review and analyze their performance in real time to identify areas for improvement.

ALSO READ: Build an Agile Mindset: How to Become an Effective Agile Project Manager

How Can Project Managers Implement Kanban in Their Projects?

As we have covered what is Kanban, its key principles, and practices, let’s now understand how it can be implemented in Agile-driven projects:

1. Define Your Project Goals and Scope

Project managers need to have a clear vision of the goals of their project. They must also have an idea about its constraints. Every goal and task must be defined clearly to help the team deal with expected outcomes.

2. Visualize Your Workflow

The Kanban board is a core element of the Kanban framework. The workflow columns reflect the stage of the project’s progress, and the card corresponds to a work item. The manager can either use a physical board or an online tool such as Trello, Jira, or Asana for this purpose.

3. Set WIP Limits

One of the key features of Kanban is to limit WIP. It allows a project manager to reduce multitasking, waste, and overproduction and improve focus, quality, and workflow. The limits are based on the team’s size, capacity, and the prevailing demand.

4. Implement the Pull System

Project managers need to implement the pull system when adopting Kanban. The system relies on the system’s actual demand and capacity to manage the workflow. This reduces the load on the system and allows teams to deliver value reliably.

5. Lay Down Policies

A project manager must lay down rules and policies that govern the project’s workflow. The presence of a policy fosters better collaboration among teams as it leads to everyone being on the same page about the process.

Want to Excel in Project Management? Discover Emeritus’ Project Management Courses

It is not merely enough to know what is Kanban and what it entails. For a successful career in project management, you also need to build the required skill set with pertinent knowledge. Emeritus’ extensive suite of project management courses helps hone your skills for seasoned project managers and beginners as well. Join in and upskill for better career prospects in the field today.

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About the Author

Content Writer, Emeritus Blog
Mitaksh has an extensive background in journalism, focusing on various beats, including technology, education, and the environment, spanning over six years. He has previously actively monitored telecom, crypto, and online streaming developments for a notable news website. In his leisure time, you can often find Mitaksh at his local theatre, indulging in a multitude of movies.
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