Derived from the Japanese word for “visual board”, the Kanban method is a visual system for managing your project deliverables along a timeline.
Historically it has been spearheaded by developers, but today it is used in many pillars of business to remove bottlenecks and speed up the time to market.
Kanbans core benefit is its ability to encourage communication of personal capacity and full transparency of work.
This blog will show you how to get started, why you should use it and some tips and tricks of the Kanban trade.
How to Get Started
There are two methods to creating a powerful Kanban board. You could go full medieval and build your system with sticky notes on a whiteboard or you could do it digitally.
Both have pros and cons. Really, we don’t care how you do it. Only that you check and update it regularly.
Of course, there are tools like Excel that let you manually build your own digital systems, but we would recommend using a project management tool that is more visual such as Trello, Asana or Jira.
A digital platform gets your to-dos out of your head and puts them somewhere that your whole team can access any time, and typically, anywhere.
If your company does not already use a project management tool, we’d recommend Trello. It’s free and ideal for Kanban.
Why Use The Kanban Method
Why is Kanban the way to go?
The method is designed to help cross-functional teams collaborate more efficiently on projects
It keeps team members accountable for their deliverables, prevents communication bottlenecks by breaking a large project into small manageable tasks
Creates a home base for your resources, tasks and learnings
It shows you where you / your team are investing your days, helping you better prioritise your time
Cross-functional teams require strong channels for conversation and collaboration to thrive. Using a Kanban board is a great way to ensure your entire team is kept in the loop!
There are a few dos and don’ts involved in operating a Kanban board:
Give detail and deadlines to your tasks
Review the board frequently to remove/update tasks
Customise it to your liking!
Add endless tasks with little direction or context
Let your tasks gather dust. If they haven’t been completed ask yourself why, is it still relevant?
Never go alone! The Kanban method works best when you involve your team
A successful Kanban board is one that is up to date and, so make sure your team is updating their tasks at LEAST once a workday. Always assign a person(s) responsible and due date, otherwise, a lot of your tasks will only be sitting there gathering dust.
How to Set Up Your Kanban System
The example below is what we use and we have found that this works best for cross-functional marketing, sales and operations teams.
Remember, not all teams are the same. So use this example as the foundation for your own Kanban board and through trial and error, you will have it perfected and customised to your team in no time.
Tips For Team Collaboration With Kanban
Find what works for your team- A killer Kanban system is highly subjective. You may find you need separate systems for each department or prefer to have your team all working in the same system. It’s up to you!
It’s All or nothing- For these systems to work everyone needs to be on board (on board with your Kanban board!) Even one stubborn team member can derail the system’s effectiveness.
Check-In and Keep it Clean- Priorities and project timelines change, your system should reflect this. We’d recommend updating your system during your WIP meetings.
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Alita Harvey-Rodriguez is known as one of Australia's leading digital marketing futurists and the brains behind Milk It Academy – A research-based training firm to advance marketers skills into new school digital leaders and company innovators. For over a decade Alita has worked with global brands including SAP, Experian, SEMrush, TS14+, Estee Lauder, Myer, Power Retail, & Online Retailer.