How to Get Started with Using Kanban for Project Management

There are a lot of ways to organize projects and manage their execution efficiently, but nothing is more popular than the Kanban system. First founded on the factory floor of Toyota, the Kanban system has grown into a comprehensive way of managing tasks. It even adapts to the modern agile method seamlessly.

For a lot of people, however, the Kanban system appears to be complicated. There are boards and cards to manage and complex workflows to navigate. The seemingly complex nature of Kanban is the exact opposite of its true nature: a simple and effective way to manage projects. To help you overcome the initial complexity of using the Kanban system, here are some tips and tricks you can use. a

Start with a Template

The Kanban methodology is not as rigid as it seems, especially now that most Kanban boards are running in the cloud as digital boards. You have complete control over how you organize your Kanban boards, which means you can fully customize the system to better suit your needs.

Before jumping ahead and customizing your boards, however, it is a good idea to start with a template. The standard Kanban system has three stages on the board: to-do, doing, done. An agile team can benefit from adding one more step: review.

Using that baseline, you can begin adding (or removing) steps, customizing how the cards are structured, and even modifying the Kanban board entirely. For example, you can manage the workload of a small team by replacing phases on the board with team members.

Make Small Changes

Another interesting thing about the Kanban methodology is the fact that it is not meant to replace existing systems in one go. Kanban is flexible enough to be used as part of a bigger project management system. To avoid the daunting task of moving to a new system entirely, this is the approach you want to use.

Visualize your existing workflow and find ways to transform some – if not all – of them into an effective Kanban board. You don’t have to push for the latter; partial migration to the Kanban system allows team members to adjust to the changes gradually.

You can introduce additional elements such as limits, or even visualize the Kanban board using colors and tags, to make the transformation more manageable. Adding and removing steps on the board is also easy when you have an existing workflow as your baseline. Combined with the previous tip of starting with a template, you will have the perfect board for your team in no time.

Optimize

That last part about having the perfect board is, well, not entirely accurate. As mentioned before, the Kanban methodology is designed to be flexible enough for long-term use. A part of that flexibility is continuous improvement. Whether you are using the Kanban system as part of a CI/CD workflow or for managing more traditional projects, there is always room for improvement.

What you want to do is evaluate the Kanban methodology you use frequently. Don’t wait until the end of a project or a cycle to make changes. Sometimes, faster and more contextual changes bring better results.

Don’t forget to get your team members involved in improving the Kanban board too. If you use digital Kanban tools like Kanbanize, you will find making changes to the board without deleting cards or altering the workflow easy to do. You will be able to duplicate existing boards and experiment on those changes too.

Incorporate Other Tools

Speaking of digital Kanban boards, modern Kanban boards like Kanbanize don’t stop at offering the board for you to use. The available tools also integrate other features to make managing projects easier. For example, you can combine the traditional Kanban system with a Gantt chart for a more holistic project management approach.

You can even bring data in and out of the Kanban board using automation. There are services that act as bridges between one solution and another. You can automate pushing updates to Google Sheet or updating the Git repository used by the team when cards are moved, or their statuses changed.

Automation takes the use of Kanban methodology to the next level. By automating some of the more mundane tasks, you can use a digital Kanban board to really take control of your projects. Cards with dependencies, automated updates, and other elements of automation as a feature are invaluable as you begin handling more complex projects.

One last tip to keep in mind when using the Kanban system as a way to manage a project: everyone needs to be on board. Migrating to a Kanban board becomes substantially easier when every team member is excited about the migration. You also don’t need to worry about reminding team members to update their cards or check the Kanban board. This, in the end, is how you get started with the Kanban system in a good way.

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