What is Kanban and How to Get Started

Kanban is a work management methodology originating from Toyota's production lines.

From software development to personal task handling, Kanban is an adaptable methodology you can try today!

Its core lies in a visual system that meticulously manages tasks as they traverse various stages, facilitating just-in-time delivery and preventing team members from being overwhelmed.

If you've ever wondered how to employ this effective system for your personal projects, here's your guide to getting started.

## What is Kanban?

Kanban is a visualization tool designed to facilitate understanding of work as it flows through the completion process.

The traditional Kanban board consists of three primary columns:

  1. To-Do: This is the initial column where tasks that need attention are listed.
  2. In Progress: Tasks migrate here once active work commences.
  3. Done: After completion, tasks are found in this column.

The aim is to maintain a steady flow of tasks from left to right, avoiding the delivery of work in large batches. This approach ensures continuous delivery and allows for the identification of any bottlenecks in the process.

Here's a visual example of what a physical board might look like: kanban board with 3 columns

How to Use Kanban

Step 1: Task Identification - Start by clearly defining what needs to be done. Write a detailed description for each task. Each of these tasks will form a Kanban card.

Step 2: Kanban Board Set-Up - Decide whether you'd prefer a physical board with sticky notes or an online tool like Trello, Asana, or Jira. Construct your board with To-Do, In Progress, and Done columns.

Step 3: Task Prioritization - Determine which tasks are most important or urgent. These will be the tasks you tackle first.

Step 4: Card Mobility - Commence work on a task and shift it to the In Progress column. On completion, transition it to the Done column.

Step 5: Flow Maintenance - Aim to keep tasks moving fluidly from left to right. You may have a bottleneck if you observe an accumulation of cards in one column. Being easily able to see this on a physical board helps you catch these bottlenecks early.

Step 6: Review and Refinement - Consistently review your board to identify what's effective and what's not. Are additional columns necessary? Are there tasks that constantly hit roadblocks? Use this feedback to enhance your process.

One crucial Kanban principle is limiting work-in-progress.

Aim to work on a fixed number of tasks at a given time to prevent overload. The exact number will vary based on your capacity, but remember, the goal is to avoid multitasking chaos.

As a rule of thumb, I always suggest that one person should only have one task as a work-in-progress at any time. This will ensure you are focused and avoid context switching.

Incorporating Kanban into your work management can better visualize your tasks, enhance organization, and boost productivity.

Its adaptable nature allows you to tailor it to fit your personal project needs, whether undertaking a significant project or managing daily tasks.

Ready to take control of your workflow?

Give Kanban a go!

📚 If you are getting ready to roll out Kanban to your team, the book I recommend is Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business.


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Avatar for Niall Maher

Written by Niall Maher

Founder of Codú - The web developer community! I've worked in nearly every corner of technology businesses; Lead Developer, Software Architect, Product Manager, CTO and now happily a Founder.

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