What is Kanban and how to get started

Are you familiar with project management in Kanban?

When working project-based, there are various methods for working efficiently - and one of the most popular is Kanban. In this article, we will explain what Kanban is, and how to set up a Kanban board for your project.

The essence of Kanban

One of the most well-known methods for working efficiently on projects is Kanban. Kanban is a dynamic and flexible project model, where flow is a central concept: Kanban visualizes the workflow in the project in a clear way, which facilitates good collaboration and open communication in the projects.

In kanban, you work in a continuous flow, in contrast to e.g. the Scrum method. In scrum, you work in clearly defined periods, often 14 days. In Kanban, there are no such limited time periods.

Psst! Download the guide 9 steps to successful project implementation to get some tips for how you can manage your projects better


How Kanban works

The starting point for project management in kanban is a task board, to which all participants in the project have access.

The entire work process is visually presented on the task board, and a column is set up for each step in the workflow.


The basic layout of a Kanban board consists of these three columns:
  1. To do - tasks to be done (a kind of backlog)
  2. Work in progress (WIP) - tasks in progress
  3. Completed/Done - tasks that have been completed



It is common to adapt the columns to the workflow you have in the team, you can add as many columns as you want. We will return to this later in the article.


A post-it note for each task

On the Kanban board, you create a "card" or a "note" for each task in the project. Each note/task goes through the steps in the project: The task starts in the "To do" column and is dragged over to the next column when someone starts working on the task. When the task has gone through all the steps in the process, it finally ends up in the last column: "Completed".

How to set up the Kanban board for your project

On a Kanban board, you can add as many columns as you want, adapted to the workflow of your team. Involve the entire project team when you start creating a Kanban board.

1. Start by mapping the existing workflow

To find out which columns you should have on the Kanban board, you must start by mapping the workflow in the project. It is important to clarify that your Kanban board should not give you a new way of working - it should rather systematize the workflow you already have.

Identify which processes you have in the projects.

Create a visual presentation of the workflow

After you have defined all the steps, you should set up a visual presentation of the workflow. Some people like to start by drawing up the steps on a whiteboard, and hanging up post-it notes with typical work tasks. The workflow can also be drawn up in a digital tool.

Create columns for the various steps in the project

When you have created a clear, visual picture of the steps in the project, it is time to create specified columns for your Kanban board. A Kanban board can consist of a few columns or many - it depends on how complex your workflow is.

An example of a set of columns could be: To do (planned tasks), Brainstorming, Product development, Design, User testing, Review, Launch, and Completed.


A typical column layout for a design team might look like this, set up in Moment:

Design, Production, Delivery, Completed.



The key to efficiency: Set a limit on the number of tasks in WIP

One of the things that makes Kanban an effective project method is that you set limits on the number of tasks you can have in each "work in progress" column.

For example, you can set a limit of a maximum of five tasks in a column. This means that if there are already five tasks in the "Testing" phase of the project, you must complete at least one of the tasks before you can add a new task for testing. If, on the other hand, a column is almost empty, it is obvious that it is time to drag a new task into that column.

The number limitation in each step of the project is what makes Kanban an efficient way of working. It ensures that the project team gets tasks completed, and pushes them forward in the project, instead of starting many tasks without completing them.

It is recommended to start working according to the Kanban method for a short period without setting limits on WIP, to observe how the work turns out. Once you have seen how it goes, you can start with a number limit. It is common to start with a limitation of 1-1.5 x the number of resources in each column. Adjust the number as you see the project progress.


The number limitation makes bottlenecks visible

If tasks pile up in one of the columns on the Kanban board, you can quickly catch it and see what the bottleneck is. That way, you can improve the areas of the project that are not working optimally, and solve problems that cause the project to stop. It is also easier to see if there is a need to involve more resources in the project.


Define the responsible persons in each of the steps in the workflow

The Kanban method facilitates good collaboration and open communication in the project, by working transparently with the tasks: All employees can see which tasks are on the board and at which stage in the process they are.

It is important that each project participant knows which steps in the workflow they are responsible for. That way, they can look at the Kanban board and easily see which work tasks are available for them to work on.


Kanban provides a continuous flow in the project

The workflow must work well when working with Kanban. All tasks must naturally move through the various steps for them to be completed at the right time.

Kanban also allows for flexibility in the project. Because everyone in the team has an overview of tasks in work (WIP) at all times, you can jump to another task that is being worked on as needed. As long as you stay within the limit for the number of WIPs.

Set up a kanban board in Moment

In Moment, you can work Kanban-based in our task management function.

Here it is easy to set up a task board adapted to your project's workflow. You easily create the columns you need and can drag tasks forward when they are completed in one column. Create tags for the task's scope and importance. You can also assign the task to certain team members. When a task is assigned to a team member, they are notified by email. All team members can access the task board to get an overview of their flow, and they can filter to see which tasks are currently assigned to them. That way, it's easy to keep everyone up to date.


Read more about how HUS Arkitekter spends less time on project management with Moment

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