The Kanban board is a tool used to track progress in projects. In a Kanban board, the tasks needed to complete the project move along a progression of states. Project managers can use it assign work to teams and team members, who will use it to track the progress of development, letting everyone do things like addressing bottlenecks or predicting delays.
Making your Kanban board
The basic Kanban board has three vertical swim lanes with names that are quite informative about the kind of tasks they contain.
- To Do
The user stories that need to be worked on are written in cards and arranged from high to low priority. Other information can be added to the cards depending on the team internal organization: the person in charge of doing the task, the deadline, the estimated effort required to complete the work, a finer definition of the task, references to other cards, labels for systems affected or project epics or milestones…
Other versions of the board use more vertical swim lanes for different stages (such as waiting for approval, testing…), or horizontal swim lanes for the different teams and for blockers and critical issues. Some have brief names and some include definitions of states that can help teams decide the right move to make.
Kanban can be extended as much as you want. You can complement your user stories cards with colour stickers to indicate their priority or assignee, or use different card colours to differentiate stories that belong to different components of the project.
Depending on your team size, the complexity of your project and other variables like the amount of supervision needed or the experience of the team you may want to use a simpler or more complex board. Remember that tools are at your service and not the other way around, and feel free to add your own personal flavour to your Kanban board.
Making your Kanban board part of your team’s daily routine.
The Kanban board is not a tool for project managers, it is a tool for team communication. When bringing the Kanban board to an organisation it is necessary that you communicate the purpose and functioning of the board to all the team members that will actively use it (project managers, developers, designers, testers, copywriters…) or benefit from it (executives, product owners…).
A good idea is to use your Kanban board in your daily Standup. This will help you collect your team’s feedback; move tasks forward, mark them as blocks or put it in another team’s row. If you don’t do daily stand ups or don’t have a scrum master, you can ask team members to move cards across the board themselves as they progress through the day.
If Kanban is new to your organisation, as a project manager you will usually find that is is not natural for team members to update their progress in the board. Sometimes this will mean that Kanban is not the right tool for them, but if you really believe that a Kanban board can improve your performance and communication openness, don’t hesitate to follow up directly with each team member and move tasks across the board yourself. Evil PM tip: Let them know every time you do it. This will probably push them to start doing it themselves just to avoid hearing from you.
If you like this post I suggest you continue reading to a post I wrote with arguments to use project management tools like this.