What are the Origins of Kanban?

Kanban originates from Toyota dating back to the 1940’s. The manufacturing origins of Kanban is based on the fact that a customer will take just what is required from a supermarket shelf, and the supermarket will therefore stock just enough, and re-order only as required. This is a ‘Pull’ Kanban system, fed by demand from the customers.

How is Kanban Used in Project Management?

For Project Management, a Kanban board can be used as a visualisation of the project tasks. In its simplest form, it consists of tasks arranged in three lists: ‘To Do’, ‘Doing’, and ‘Done’. For a team project, team members can ‘Pull’ tasks from the ‘To Do’ list into the ‘Doing’, and then to the ‘Done’ column.

Kanban Board

Kanban Board

Basic modifications involve arranging the tasks by priority, limiting the number of ‘doing’ tasks, and adding resource names to the tasks, or adding several specific ‘doing’ columns for each team member.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Kanban Board?

Even in the simple form, a Kanban board can be used as a very visual communication of workload and progress, and can prevent daily management issues such as:

  • Working on things that are enjoyed, rather than priority items
  • Starting too much work (inefficient)

Essentially a Kanban board can help model the work-flow through a project team, and identify future bottlenecks and resource issues. It becomes a place to communicate project issues and a focal point for the team. This is especially true for IT projects where there is nothing physical to see.

Kanban has a psychological background based on:

  • The tendency to remember an uncompleted task rather than a completed one.
  • Moving a card to the second column on the kanban board communicates that you have committed and have started to do something. This increases accountability and reduces procrastination.
  • Dragging a card to the final column, represents finishing a task, this reduces cognitive load and perceived stress.

Kanban can be applied to personal tasks, ensuring that you are working on the vital few things rather than the interesting many!

Is it time to use kanban in your projects or work flow?

Kanban Boards are simple tools to visualise project tasks and foresee resource problems.


Posted On: 23rd November 2017

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