Working with Kanban — Frequently Asked Questions

Anna Majowska
5 min readDec 12, 2018

Project management as a concept can be extended to anything from running an enterprise to following a personal to-do-list.
The idea remains the same throughout all of these and it’s only the scale that changes.
After working on Kanban Tool and with Kanban as our sole PM tool for a decade, we’ve come to associate project management with visual management. Unless the process is visually available and readable at a glance, no-one has a full view over what is going on.
Therefore for us, project management means a visual way of organizing consecutive or neighbouring steps needed to be fulfilled before a set goal is reached.

What project management challenges companies have to face and how does Kanban help?

  • Difficulty with resource management & work distribution
    With Kanban: Work can be shared and assigned to team members, and each of them manages their own workload according to individual priorities or preference.
  • Inability to tell where exactly each person’s responsibilities lay
    With Kanban: Each employee’s assignments can be looked through, giving a good sketch of what they normally deal with.
  • The organizational overhead and delay that frequent staff changes produce
    With Kanban: Having a visual record of all processes, makes it easier to enrol new employees and guide their understanding of how they’re expected to work.
  • Inability to gauge both individual and team efficiency
    With Kanban: Individual and team efficiency can both be measured with the digital Kanban Tool board’s metrics. That’s innate to digital boards only — they do the measurements for you, making it no extra work at all.
  • Lack of understanding of the entire process a company is following
    With Kanban: Thanks to its visual nature, everyone gains insight into what is the process that the company follows, making their role clearer and easier to understand.
  • Difficulty in achieving employee focus in busy, interconnected, “always up-to-date” times where multitasking is exercised on a daily basis and still thought of as beneficial
    With Kanban: It’s easier to concentrate on a single task, when a clear Work In Progress limit is applied. With Kanban, multitasking is not considered a good thing, as it regularly slows down the overall throughput and decreases the quality, since no task gets your full attention. Also, with numerous disruptions and constant buzz from social media and smart phones, when people are stopped mid-task, it’s easier for them to get back to what they were doing, if they are visually tracking their work.

What common mistakes do project managers make?

A typical mistake is to micro-manage people, taking the control and feeling of empowerment away from employees. This leads to a lack of sense of responsibility and to people feeling as though they make no impact on the final product / service you work on.
Teams and individuals should strive to be self-organized, plan their workdays for themselves based on a goal, not a step-by-step path. Micro-management is very often a waste of time for both the manager and the team.

What’s to be gained from use of an online project management tool / app?

It gives you a very easy way to see who is busy or free and what is the status on projects and tasks.
A time-saving tool to automate how work is shared, commented and reviewed. Kanban Tool users normally underline the need to use an online application just to cut down the time needed for repeating communication and meetings. There is also a whole group of companies that turn to online project management because they work in multi-national, widely distributed teams, making communication and feedback extra difficult, but still just as necessary.

What makes Kanban so effective?

In a nutshell — its simplicity. People can put all their piling up things to do away onto a board, and choose one of them to focus on right now, without having to constantly think “Surely, I’m forgetting something or missing a deadline right now”.
There is also the great satisfaction of moving a card to “done” and seeing a nice pile of these completed tasks at the end of the day / week. It’s a very simple way of visualizing what (and in what amount) was actually done, which is particularly important and often elusive in knowledge-based workflows, personal development plans or other intangible endeavours.
Most of us benefit from seeing what we did, instead of fretting “I’ve been sitting here for X hours, but there is still plenty to do. What was I doing the whole time?”. Kanban answers this question and can provide satisfaction and appreciation.

What makes Kanban so versatile?

Again, all varied Kanban implementations have been made possible thanks to its simplicity. There are very few “projects” to which Kanban cannot be applied, since most companies work does involve a process that can be visualized and made more in tune with all activities, making any hectic day seem organized. Just seeing the board with its order and plan helps you in having everything under control. And noticing a steady progression of items through the board can calm any stressed manager down.

What’s the role of visual thinking in planning?

“A picture is worth a thousand words” — this is the reason behind visual workflow organization success. It is hugely more effective to see your day on a board as tasks or events, than to imagine the things you need to do, very likely forgetting half in the process.
We believe thinking visually is what many of us do anyway, even if not consciously or intentionally. Visual thinking helps to build structure and bring order to disorganized and constantly interrupted thought processes.

Are we seeing a move towards more visual project management methodologies in general?

Most definitely. Since Kanban Tool has been made available to everyone nearly a decade ago, we’ve seen a steady growth in companies interest. Small, medium and large businesses all appreciate the value that visual planning and visual management brings to the table.
It’s even better proven with small teams that start to use Kanban and then contact us regarding getting X times more seats for the rest of the company. As knowledge of the method’s effectiveness spreads, more and more people want to benefit from its goodness.

Any tips on increasing productivity?

  • 1. Use Kanban Tool for best combination of Kanban, teamwork management, access to boards from anywhere and at all times, ease of use and wide customization.
  • 2. Do not multi-task — though there are situations when this will make sense, most of the times it’s more hindrance than help.
  • 3. Take regular breaks. You will feel better and work more effectively.
  • 4. Do the most difficult tasks first. Have a day that will get easier with each hour.
  • 5. Limit meetings to the absolute minimum. Everyone will thank you.
  • 6. Switch your phone to silent when working.
  • 7. Prioritise tasks on a daily basis, making the order match your current needs.

This article was originally published on the Kanban Tool Blog.