Kanban Project Management: the Right Tool for Many Projects
By George Ellis
Ever feel overwhelmed by your task list? Whether it’s your daily work or a simple project, think about Kanban Project Management. A Kanban PM Board is a simple visual management tool for many tasks with few inter-dependencies. For example, you might use Kanban project management for managing ECOs or organizing small customization jobs.
In Kanban PM, each task is listed separately with a sticky note or some electronic equivalent (I sometimes use PowerPoint). The Kanban board is divided into 4 or 5 columns with the tasks starting on the left and flowing to the right. Here’s an example of a personal Kanban management board I use:
Kanban Project Management KPM) is a pull system. The main action takes place in the middle—”On Deck” and “In Process” in this example. There the maximum size is limited to, say, 3 or 4 tasks. Cross the limit and you’ve got too much multitasking. In our example, the limit is 3, so you shouldn’t add anything to “On Deck” until you flow something out into “In Progress”.
Kanban PM is one of the simplest project management method, but it has immediate benefit. It simultaneously shows and limits multitasking and work-in-progress (WIP); reducing either are well-known to improve efficiency. With Kanban PM, anyone can tell when there are too many tasks in a column. Also, Kanban PM shows task flow—if tasks get stuck for long, you’ll notice. And Kanban PM boards are simple—where Gantt and Pert charts require training, anyone with a white board, some stickies, and a pen can start a Kanban board. Kanban boards are easy to use, but don’t try to use them for projects with complex task structure—the Kanban flows tasks independently, so complicated predecessor/successor relationships don’t work well.
George Ellis has worked in the Engineering industry for 30 years. He currently leads a team of 30 engineers designing and supporting industrial control products. You can read more from George on his blog.