What Is A Kanban Board?

Here at Buckets, we’ve known about the Kanban Board for quite some time, in fact — we based our platform around the concept.

So what is a Kanban? It’s not some kind of Japanese martial art form if that’s what you’re thinking!

A Kanban Board is a unique system that organizes information in a logical progression of completion. It allows users to complete complex tasks in a way that lets everyone know what is being done and when.

To fully understand it, let’s look at its origins.

The Kanban technique came to prominence in the late 1940’s when Toyota engineers came up with a new approach to organizing their manufacturing process. Workers would use colored cards to let their colleagues in the line know what parts were in demand and what items were needed for assembly.

The Kanban is a highly visual system that allows groups of people to communicate easily about complex matters — like what needs to be done; when it needs to be done, and by whom.

The Toyota system was originally modeled on the same method that supermarkets use to stock their shelves. A supermarket will put just enough products on the shelves to keep up with the needs of their customers, thus preventing over-production and eliminating waste.

When Toyota brought this idea into their factories, their work crews (such as the group of workers who would put the engine in place) would deliver a card (or ‘kanban’ as it’s known in Japanese) to each other. With this workflow in place, Toyota’s interdependent teams always knew exactly what was needed and when.

Whilst Kanbans have evolved since then (i.e. Buckets!), this system of information has stayed true to its core functionality — which is to ensure that everyone is working on the most important thing at the most important time.

Simple & Complex

As with anything else in life, your Kanban Board can be as simple or as complex as it needs to be. At a basic level, a Kanban Board can have 3 simple columns; ‘To Do’, ‘Doing’, and ‘Done’. On a more complex level, it can guide a software development team through multiple complex phases of a project.

A good Kanban is only focused on the tasks that are actively in progress. Once the team completes a task, they can take the next task off the top of the backlog (or the ‘to do’ section).

The manager of the Kanban is free to change the priority of work in the backlog without interrupting the flow of the team. As long as the manager keeps the most vital task at the top of the backlog, the team can ensure that they are working on the most important projects first.

To go back to our supermarket analogy, if the customers are making a ‘run’ on cornflakes, the Kanban will make sure everyone knows that cornflakes need to be restocked ASAP.

The Buckets platform lets you mimic this system exactly. You can make sure that your team is up to date with everything and focusing on the tasks that are most important.

Kanban Kills Multitasking

A lot of people (and businesses) think that multitasking is a good thing, but the Toyota engineers who designed the Kanban believed that multitasking was the ‘enemy of efficiency’.

As far as they were concerned, the more tasks that were being done at the same time, the more the project suffered. When employees shifted between tasks in an unfocused manner, efficiency went downhill fast. That’s why a key part of the Kanban system is to constrain the amount of jobs that are currently ‘in progress’.

For example, if your Kanban Board is being utilized in a web design company, you can use it to ensure that certain tasks take priority. If your Kanban has 5 workflow states, i.e. ‘to do, design, code, review, complete’, you can prioritize one section by limiting the number of tasks it can contain.

By limiting the number tasks that can be in a section at any given time, e.g. 3 or less — you can ensure that it gets cleared as a matter of urgency.

How It Can Benefit You

The Kanban system can improve every kind of task list, whether it’s a company project or a list of household chores. It’s a system that makes sure your team is working on the most important thing at the most important time while also keeping everyone on the same page with a birds-eye view.

Not to toot our own horn or anything, but the Buckets platform provides the perfect way to tailor your Kanban to your own specific requirements and share it with your entire organization. For free! To create your own Kanban Board on Buckets, click here. Toot!

You just know that those Toyota engineers would have used Buckets if they could, right?