To the uninitiated, Kanban might sound more like an appetizer you’d order at a sushi restaurant than a method of project management. Kanban may not be edible, but it is a Japanese export. It was created by a Japanese engineer at Toyota in the 1940s as a way to organize work and address inefficiencies in the company’s manufacturing system.
Kanban first piqued the interest of business leaders in the early 2000s, when it was primarily used to optimize software development workflows. Today, Kanban is being applied across all disciplines of knowledge work to help teams visualize, manage, and optimize their work.
Science backs up the benefits of Kanban: The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than words. By harnessing the innate power of visual information, Kanban kicks communication and understanding into high gear.
6 Benefits of Kanban for Project Management
Here are six ways Kanban can benefit your team’s project management:
The central idea behind Kanban is communicating through visual signals, the benefits of which span industries and job titles. Because it’s universally applicable, Kanban can be implemented by every team in your company from engineering to marketing to admin. Its versatility makes it simple for team members and projects to move seamlessly across functions — for example, moving a content project from editing to graphic design, or a new software feature from integration to testing.
#2 Continuous Improvement
One of the guiding principles of Kanban is that everyone should be focused on continuous improvement. Kanban’s visual system of project management makes it easier to review processes and make improvements that cut waste, streamline workflow, and reduce overhead.
In the auto industry where it began, Kanban was created to better match inventory with demand by only kicking processes into gear when inventory was very low — a practice known as “just-in-time delivery.” In project management applications, responsiveness is still one of the core benefits of Kanban. Using Kanban makes it possible to respond more agilely to business needs.
#4 Increased Output
Kanban encourages teams to limit how much work they have in progress at any time, a concept referred to as limiting “WIP” (work-in-process). Limiting WIP encourages teams to work together to move work across the finish line, eliminating the distraction of multitasking as much as possible. This enhanced collaboration and intense focus allows teams practicing Kanban to get more done, faster.
#5 Empowered Teams
The entire team owns the Kanban system and shares responsibility for moving work across the finish line. Kanban empowers teams to make more agile decisions that move projects forward with innovation and efficiency.
#6 A More Perfect Product
Kanban’s focus on continuous improvement and agile responsiveness to issues often means that projects seen through to completion have fewer errors and require less rework. It puts quality control back into the project management process, yielding more accurate outcomes.
If you’re thinking of purchasing a Kanban-based solution, make sure you do your research first. Read project management software reviews, compare products based on your features and budget, and run a demo of any that make your shortlist. The best solution for your team will be the one that can adapt to your regular workflows and offers the capabilities you need in an easy-to-implement platform.