A Kanban board is a workflow envisioning tool for managing projects and tasks. At Huenei we find it very useful as we use it in turnkey projects, staff augmentation, and dedicated teams, so we want to let you know how to take advantage of it. With most of the work being intangible nowadays, having a visual model with cards that represent processes might be your next great strategy for expediting your pending duties and gaining more insight into your workload.
Although its origins come from Japan, where Kanban means “visual signal”, this project management system is now widely used by many Silicon Valley startups and tech giants such as Epic Games, Bose, and Google for the implementation of DevOps and agile software development, IT, product development and even manufacturing.
As Kanban researcher David Anderson explains, “Kanban systems can be used in any situation in which there is a desire to limit a quantity of things inside a system.” In this article, we will help you set up your Kanban board and teach you how you can use it for troubleshooting your projects and speeding up your ongoing business ventures.
How to Create your Own Kanban Board: the Components
There are five key elements for the foundation of a Kanban board: cards, columns, work-in-progress limits, a commitment point, and a delivery point.
1. Cards: You can use stickies, cardboard cards, or any other visual signals that help you represent tasks, each one containing a description, a deadline, a user story, or any other relevant information related to a specific project.
2. Columns: They represent the stages composing the workflow. It is intended that each card flows through the system until they are completed. You may use workflows such as “ready to start,” “in progress,” and “done.”
3. Work-in-progress limits: They mandate how many cards a column can hold at the same time, which means that you cannot add infinite tasks until the previous ones have been completed. This is particularly useful for avoiding obstructions and focusing on the tasks that matter the most at any given moment.
4. Commitment point: This is where it all starts. At this point, members of the team have already defined which proposals will turn into actual projects. A good idea for filtering up cards before they come into the commitment point is creating a backlog for the board, where you can write the ideas that come after a brainstorming session.
5. Delivery point: At this point, the team can scream Eureka! because they now have a tangible product ready for commercialization. The goal of each Kanban system (because they are unique to each team) is to take as many cards from the commitment point to the delivery point in the most efficient way possible. The time that happens between them is called Lead Time, which can be used as a great key performance indicator for some teams.
Now that we have defined the elements of a Kanban board let’s dive into the dynamics of this workflow system. As we mentioned before, it may be useful to add a backlog column where team members can liberally add ideas and the tasks that accompany them on multiple stickies before they come to the commitment point.
Once you have reached the commitment point or “ready to go” column, cards must flow through the “in progress,” and “done” columns. During this process, team members with assigned tasks will be responsible for moving the stickies into the next columns until they reach the “done” point and choose a new task.
It is important to note that each Kanban board can only hold a limited number of cards and that one card represents a unique piece of work. In other words, you can only add a new task when a new card is available, so no new work can be added if there are no free cards. Although this sounds very simple, this is key for avoiding bottlenecks and maximizing the ongoing efforts.
The Best Apps for Creating your Own Kanban Board
Although using stickies and sharpies on any surface or window for creating a Kanban board is what makes this system attractive for many people, others bet on more advanced workflow methods that they can update at any moment from any device.
Here’s a list of the best Kanban board apps, with many of them already including projects by default that can serve you as a guide for effortlessly adding all your work:
- Trello (Web, Mac, Windows, Android, iOS): this intuitive multi-platform app is so fast that it may be the best option for starters in the Kanban world. In just a few minutes you can set up your own board containing cards with comments and checklists. Trello also offers extra useful features such as assigning files to cards and adding other apps inside Trello for video chatting and time tracking. The app offers a free version with unlimited cards and members, and a business-class version at $10 per user per month with extra features such as a dashboard and timeline view.
- Blossom (Web): if aesthetics play a vital role in your team, Blossom may be the right app for you. It comes with a pristine design that will help you focus on the completion of your tasks with no distractions, and it also includes analytics that can be sent straight to your mail with information about how long each task took to complete and what are the upcoming tasks for your team.
Although Kanban is mostly a workflow method, many of its enthusiasts also define it as a value system, where the agreement to carry out projects, respect for team members, leadership, collaboration, and customer focus are crucial to success. So now that you know how the Kanban system works it may be a good time for creating your own board, be it on a table, a window, or using any of the apps that we have recommended you. At Huenei we strongly recommend the use of this methodology to organize projects and achieve a much more dynamic and efficient workflow.