Experts agree that as the world becomes fully connected, a non-stop, always-on communicative environment is changing the way we live and work, making project management increasingly difficult. More and more, project managers work with teams spread across the globe who often feel as if they are constantly being bombarded with data from dozens, sometimes even hundreds, of sources in real time. The result is an information overload, inevitably followed by an inefficient use of resources, missed deadlines, confusion, and failed projects.
With studies showing how the visualization of information can counterbalance cognitive overload, more and more project managers are turning to the use of a 60 year old Japanese method called Kanban to help bring clarity to today’s projects and help team members achieve their goals.
Thanks to the cloud and its ever-present mobile connectivity, Kanban has been updated and is making a digital comeback in digital form.
The Japanese term “Kanban” means visual card. A Kanban system includes a board which has been divided into several columns, one for each project workflow. The most basic boards have three columns – ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’ and ‘Done’. Cards are placed under each category to represent project workflows, moving through the columns as tasks progress.
This provides immediate clarity regarding any project, no matter how complex, as it allows team members to easily absorb large amounts of information and visualise what everyone is working on. In other words, Kanban boards enable smooth team collaboration, boosting team productivity.
Simple yet efficient
Studies carried out in the fields of group psychology and behavioural science show the brain processes images far more easily than it does text. By visualising information, people can counterbalance cognitive overload, which occurs when they receive too much information or too many tasks simultaneously, not being able to process information properly.
Interestingly, while it is now that the Kanban approach is gaining popularity in businesses across the world, it was first developed by Toyota in post-war Japan, when the country sought to revive its industry by improving production levels. Following Toyota’s positive results, Kanban started being recognized as a tool for eliminating uncertainty and promoting sensible and appropriate follow-through actions.
21st Century Kanban
As today’s workforce tends to be mobile and geographically dispersed, the traditional office Kanban board is no longer functional as a central hub. Instead, digital Kanban boards have the potential to be key project management tools.
Based on the cloud, the updated Kanban board can bring together team members located in different parts of the world, offering real time overviews of the projects they’re working on, which they can access from laptops, tablets or mobile phones.
Digital Kanban boards facilitate the transfer of knowledge, joint problem solving and coordinating individual commitments. When each team member enjoys such benefits a ripple effect takes place, ultimately improving individual performances and the management of projects by bringing clarity and simplicity to processes.
The best Kanban tools also enable transparency and communication among team members, reinforcing their good behaviour and sense of personal responsibility. Underpinned by social features such as conversation chains, feedback features and activity streams, social tools offer full insight into who is in possession of what information, who is doing what and when – even showing who has or hasn’t completed their tasks on time.
By quickly obtaining information and being able to make swift decisions, team members can then connect effectively with others within the organization who can contribute to their work. This facilitates an open work culture with full transparency, self-organization and engagement as the main ingredients, eliminating the need for managers to attend endless touch-base meetings.
Key to efficient project management
We live and work in an increasingly connected and complex environment. To operate more efficiently, project managers are adopting new ways of working. They are starting to use the latest cloud collaboration and project management platforms in order to build collaborative communities within their organisations and increase their efficiency and competitiveness.
Digital boards are therefore key to enabling flatter organisational structures where managers can prioritize tasks and where team members can become more involved in the decision-making process.