Using Kanban in projects is a simple and direct way to help teams increase their work efficiency by visualizing the workload.
As part of the guidance available in PRINCE2 Agile®, it’s a tool that should be in every project manager’s toolkit, especially in less complex environments.
Kanban – originally designed to improve efficiency in manufacturing – is now used more to visualize the tasks in a project, shown on a board with sticky notes. This way, it helps in making planning easier and accessible to everyone.
This is especially true for people who are not professional project managers and who find it difficult to use a schedule as a day-to-day project management tool. Kanban makes planning so immediate that people actually use it!
In my role as head of PMO, I advise professional project managers to use Kanban as a way of visualizing the project plan and, where possible, move between that and their schedule view. The Kanban view focuses on what people are actually doing, makes understanding everyone’s workload easier and helps in prioritizing tasks.
Using the Kanban view with the many small and less complex projects in our business helps with the manage by exception principle in PRINCE2. This is because it really shows what is happening with a task and highlights when it’s necessary to report upwards to the project board. It also helps the board read the schedule, as they are not involved in the project day to day.
Getting accustomed to Kanban
Sometimes, it’s the name “Kanban” that is an obstacle for people. However, once they understand the concept and start using it, they see how useful it is and then Kanban becomes part of the language and ways of working.
For example, I was recently working with team members in operations in another country.
We needed a small pilot project but, for whatever reason, it just wasn’t happening. There simply wasn’t a sense of urgency in the team for this.
So, we created a Kanban view on a white board in the office with sticky notes and it made a huge difference. The schedule of tasks became real and the project gained momentum, the team members were able to track each other on whether tasks were completed or not and this increased ownership. In effect, it made the project tasks visible, physical, present and understandable and people become more accountable.
PRINCE2 Agile and Kanban
Why do I think it’s important to have knowledge of Kanban and other lean/agile techniques in PRINCE2 Agile?
It’s important for project managers to use these methods as the tools relate to classic project management controls, help teams increase communication and bring people together. Highly effective teams are those that communicate well.
Project managers sometimes struggle to communicate with the whole team and, instead, resort to control and to ticking all the project management boxes. Kanban helps them to be better communicators.
Ultimately this is about people organizing themselves and their activities more effectively in order to move tasks forward by doing the critical things rather than trying to do everything at once.