When it comes to day-to-day task management for teams, the Kanban board is a simple and powerful tool that can have a big impact on your productivity, efficiency, and bottom line.
First popularized in the 1940s by Toyota in Japan, the Kanban solution has a long history of using physical boards to help visualize potential bottlenecks and manage and improve workflow. Today, it’s also easy to create digital boards using task management software, which offers many convenient features and customization to help you save time and automate processes.
The Kanban method has gained popularity among many IT companies that follow the agile approach to project management and software development, using iterative work sequences also known as sprints. However, businesses of all sizes in any industry can benefit from working with Kanban boards to manage daily tasks.
Kanban, which means “billboard” or “signboard” in Japanese, uses boards to organize individual tasks into columns, helping you focus on work in progress without losing perspective of the larger projects at hand.
Generally, a Kanban board includes two main elements: cards, which represent tasks; and columns, which illustrate tasks at various stages of a project. Columns are usually divided into three sections — “To Do,” “In Progress,” and “Done.” Or, if you’re working on a specific project like creating a new software program, you can name your columns “Design,” “Development,” and “Testing.”
Task cards, which usually contain checklists, assignments, and labels, are distributed between the three columns. As tasks progress, the cards move across the board from left to right, helping you visualize their status in the workflow—from “To Do” to “Done.”
Whether physical or digital, the Kanban process fosters team collaboration and productivity, helping everyone understand how their individual efforts contribute to the project. Some teams organize daily stand-up meetings around a Kanban board to give status updates, receive feedback, and monitor trends.
To be considered a proper Kanban board, your board must have a limited number of task items to ensure you’re not working over capacity. Kanban also helps you continuously monitor the workflow to avoid bottlenecks, allowing your team to flag the items piling up in a column faster than they leave.
Physical Kanban boards
Physical Kanban boards are great for teams who are new to the Kanban concept. These boards are easy to read and manage, don’t require an internet connection, and for cross-functional teams collaborating on the same project, can boost workplace engagement and communication.
However, they are not generally ideal for tasks that require more in-depth descriptions and background information. A tangible card can only fit so much content, while digital boards can store a limitless number of notes and comments as your workload increases.
Moreover, physical boards are less flexible when it comes to tracking task timing and meeting specific deadlines. Digital boards offer customizable reporting options for quick progress evaluation and historic performance data.
Finally, if you work with remote teams who are rarely at the office, it’s nearly impossible to use a physical Kanban board effectively. A digital board allows your team to access the task management system anytime and from any device.
Digital Kanban boards
If you’ve decided that a physical board full of colorful notes isn’t working anymore, investing in task management software that uses the Kanban method’s principles and visual concepts might be the right option for your team. Moreover, a digital option offers many benefits that physical boards can’t provide, such as data visualization, attachments, and card history.
In your search for a solution with Kanban functionality, look for one that helps you create content-rich task cards including checklists, labels, and specific due dates. It should also sync with programs you commonly use, allowing you to attach text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations to each card. That way your team will have access to all the necessary data in one place without having to switch apps.
To help you keep moving your tasks into that “Done” column, also consider software that can automatically transform task status into pie and bar charts. This will help you to quickly gain insights into which tasks are on track—and which are not. For example, you’ll be able to make adjustments and reassign tasks if you see that one of your team members regularly misses their deadlines.
Finally, as more companies are shifting to virtual workforces, consider cloud-based task managers that help you to stay on top of your to-do lists from anywhere, on any device.
Benefits of using a Kanban solution
Kanban boards provide a solid base for organizing your tasks in a coherent and structured manner. They are especially appealing to people who identify as “visual learners” and prefer to use charts, graphs, diagrams, and other images to interpret and work with information.
Done right, Kanban boards streamline workflow and reduce interruptions that inevitably arise during projects and tasks. That’s because all team members are focused on delivering work in a consistent rhythm. Kanban boards can show when a specific task is holding up a project, which makes it easy to change course if necessary.
Ultimately, Kanban boards focus on boosting efficiency by ensuring team members aren’t spending time on unnecessary tasks; rather, each task plays into a broader goal. As a result, Kanban has the potential to significantly enhance team task productivity.
One of the most popular mantras of the modern workplace is “Stop starting and start finishing.” The Kanban solution is all about focusing on task completion.
If your team keeps failing to finish tasks, now is an ideal time to try the Kanban method. It may take some time to set up your board and develop a process to perfection, but with determination and a view toward continuous improvement, you and your team have more productive days ahead.
Learn more about task management software based on the Kanban method.