Applying kanban for task management: a how-to guide

We’ve already established kanban as an exceptional tool for managing all sorts of work-related activities: from production lines in shoe factories to managing the design team’s tasks in a startup, this versatile tool can revolutionize the way you manage your work.

Now it’s time to show you how to apply kanban for task management in order to boost your team’s productivity and make them way more efficient than they currently are.

Let’s start by taking a step back and exploring the basic concept of a kanban board. You’ve probably seen a board filled with post-its divided into columns (phases), much like the representation below:

This example is likely the first contact most people have with kanban. It’s not the only (nor the most effective way) to use a kanban board but we’ll worry about comparing types of kanban boards further down the road.

Why use kanban for task management?

First and foremost, what you need to know about kanban boards is that they’re a visual representation of your team’s work and, for this and many other reasons, is one of the most effective way to manage your (and your team’s) tasks.

Applying kanban for task management helps you always have the right answers to important questions such as “what are you doing now?”, “what do you plan on doing next”, etc.

Whether you’re using a white board full of post-its attached to it or a digital kanban board, using kanban for task management is the best way to make your team’s work transparent and visible to everyone on your team (after all, it’s right there on the wall for everyone to see).

Taking advantage of the visual representation of work provided by kanban allows you not only to optimize your team’s task management, but also:

  • Keep track of the work in progress (what each of your team members is doing);
  • Clearly see “the big picture” to analyze the progress of the activities;
  • Make it easier to understand complex processes and projects by breaking them down into smaller tasks;
  • Understand how things are connected throughout the team’s activities.

When should kanban boards be used?

Even though they’re most commonly seen in IT/software development teams, kanban boards can be used to manage almost any type of activity. Kanban boards are responsible for dramatically improving clarity and communication amongst teams so we can safely say there are only benefits of using it.

[Using kanban for task management helps make sure no information slips through the cracks of the process nor gets misunderstood or lost in translation between teams. It helps improve the communication inside a team as well as throughout the entire company.

Kanban boards are also a great way for inspiring teamwork. Can’t see why? Well, by showing things to people in a clearer new perspective they help each team member see what their responsibilities/tasks are and how important they are to the overall success of the operations.

This new perspective empowers team members to take matters into their own hands and take initiative when they see something’s not working as it should or when they believe something could be done differently.

Seeing your team’s, your department’s or even your company’s operations from up high allow you to identify which parts of the machine are well oiled, which ones are working over capacity and which ones need to be reviewed.

Overall, as a management tool, kanban allows you to see everything about your team’s activities as clearly and realistically as possible, improving leadership and change management.

Want to use kanban for task management?

Want to start managing your team’s tasks using kanban today but don’t know where to start? Well, you can go to a craft store, buy a white board and a whole bunch of post-its or you can use a kanban software, or an online kanban board, that’s intuitive, easy to use and, what’s best, it’s free!

Through a simple Kanban-style interface, Pipefy allows companies to achieve process excellence without the need for IT, technical skills or professional services.

Pipefy’s fully customizable platform helps teams attain higher levels of productivity and efficiency by setting clear execution standards for every step of each process.

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Written by Isabelle Salemme, Product content manager at Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to write informative pieces teaching users to make the best of Pipefy. Besides being responsible for all product-related content, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover and a professional photographer.