Kanban originated as a scheduling system for lean and just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing at Toyota in the 1940s. It has become a full project management system, allowing you to organize work and tackle inefficiencies in your system. For example, it was used in the early 2000s to optimize software development processes. It is now being used in many different industries, and there are many reasons why it is spreading in popularity, and why so many businesses swear by it. Here are 7 benefits of using Kanban for project management.

Greater Responsiveness

Kanban as a project management application remains responsive. You can see which tasks are behind schedule or bottlenecks in the process and respond immediately to them. This can have the side benefit of reducing overtime and stress on team members. Because of the pull approach that Kanban preaches, people don’t start tasks unless they have the capacity to do so. The addition of WIP limits ensure focus on the current work items at hand which helps team members reduce multitasking and process work to Done in a more efficient way.

Kanban systems were originally created to match inventory to demand. You only moved parts to the manufacturing plant or assembly station when they were required. This is what is commonly referred to as a “just in time delivery”.

If you’re new to Kanban, beginners can learn here at Kanbanize about the history of Kanban. You’ll learn more about how Kanban became the foundation of lean manufacturing and eventually lean project management. It also touches on the core Kanban principles, and how you can implement a Kanban system in your organization.

Improved Visibility

Kanban gives you improved visibility into the state of the project. The Kanban board allows you to see what work is in progress, what tasks have been completed, and what has not yet begun. You can see the process states the task has to go through, and everyone knows the process that should be followed. You can immediately spot bottlenecks as they’re forming and address them.

Improved Efficiency

Kanban project management can improve the efficiency of your organization. Kanban immediately improves flow efficiency, because you can see where inefficiencies are hampering your flow. You can reassign resources exactly where they’re needed, whether it is a stalled task or a serious bottleneck. You know when that flow has opened up, and then you can reassign people wherever they’re required.

Greater Productivity

Kanban systems naturally improve your team’s productivity. You end the focus on starting work to finishing it. This is in part because work is measured by cycle time, and team members want to get things finished as soon as possible.

By focusing on throughput, people work on getting tasks done rather than starting things that may sit for a few weeks. Furthermore, procrastination is discouraged because backlogs get noticed. All of this will result in more tasks being completed and improved productivity over time. For this reason, Kanban leads to continuous process improvement.

The Elimination of Multitasking

Another benefit of a Kanban system is that it tells people what their highest priority is. They know what to work on to the exclusion of everything else. Because people don’t have their attention split between several different tasks, their efficiency doesn’t suffer as a result.

Context switching or the shifting from one task to another causes anywhere from five to thirty minutes per “switch”, depending on the person and the task involved. By preventing people from taking on new work before the prior task is done, you end up eliminating this wasted time and inefficiencies as they get up to speed. In short, you’re eliminating wasted time.

Greater Versatility

Versatility provides visual signals regarding the state and progress of your project, no matter what that project is. That makes Kanban universally applicable. It also means that Kanban can be implemented in every department and adopted by every team, whether they’re managing a marketing campaign or software development project. You give everyone a universal method of measuring progress and managing projects.

Allows You to Continually Improve Products on the Fly

But one of the most beautiful things about Kanban is that it allows you to react to market pressures and deal with customer feedback in ways no other system allows you to. Continuous improvement is at the core of Kanban. Important issues can be added to the workflow immediately and can be arranged and rearranged in the backlog as you please. Since no one is tangled up with huge tasks, issues can be addressed quickly, and allow you to deliver change much faster. This will make a world of difference when it comes to how your brand is viewed by your customers.

The Kanban system is the foundation of lean manufacturing and agile project management. The simple, versatile tool can be applied to almost any project. Make sure that you look into it in more detail, and consider all the benefits it could offer to your organization.