Kanban: Not Just For Making Cars

Rewind back to 2015. My manager walks in and asks us to gather round as he announces excitedly we’ll be using kanban.

“Kanban … isn’t that a manufacturing scheduling system?”

I was slightly confused. I studied the concept in college. But I work as an automation tester, how is this relevant to what I do?

Before I answer that let’s take a moment to define kanban. Merriam Webster literally defines it as simply “Just in time”. For a manufacturer, the kanban concept essentially means only keeping enough stock on hand of specific parts that will soon be put into a finished product. This process limits wasteful spending in unneeded parts and the cost to store them. Critically, items are also tracked as they move through a factory or signal when additional parts are needed with physical kanban cards.

“Yep, that one!” my manager responded and quickly broke it down.

E-kanban’s are web based project boards (see above) which can be utilized to track, detail and assign different project tasks visually. E-kanban’s are fully customizable, but a common workflow is as follows: First, projects are broken down into their smaller sub-tasks and added to the “To Do” column in the form of a small card. Details like descriptions, assigned due dates, task check lists and team members assigned can be added and viewed by double-clicking on a card. Next, they’re shifted into the “Accepted”, “In Progress” “Review” and finally “Complete” columns as the task is worked on and ultimately completed.

Off the bat, it’s fairly straight forward to picture how utilizing an e-kanban allows a project manager to assign tasks, monitor progress and identify bottlenecks far quicker than other methods (I am talking to you Microsoft Project). But even as a project team member, I find it incredibly beneficial in helping me get on task each morning. I have also noticed over time it allows me to juggle far more tasks than I expected to, since I can literally see what I have my plate and keep chomping at the bit. Finally, I’ve noticed it demystifies to upper management what exactly you’re working on as well, and greater insight into what your teams is doing is always a good thing.

Kanban isn’t just helpful for the individual to get on task each day, and to that point it’s actually why our team now uses an e-kanban displayed on a large screen during our daily scrum meetings. It perfectly complements the scrum concept of reporting on what was done, what you will do and discussing roadblocks, especially since according to Forbes (2013), 65% of individuals are visual learners. It’s all right there, transparently showing what everyone is working on and how people are being utilized.

Interested in integrating e-Kanban into how you manage your projects to boost your team’s productivity? Great; because there are numerous options regardless of budget size:

For smaller companies, e-kanban’s like Kanban Tool are perfect as they’re offered at an affordable per user rate with modest scaling as you add additional users. For medium size companies, solutions like TargetProcess stand out for their polished looking web based e-kanban tool set and matching iOS and Android applications. They also support useful features like a comments section for each task for team members to communicate. Finally, companies utilizing Atlassian’s JIRA for software development may be pleased to learn you already have the ability to create kanban boards. Additionally, using the Jira Cloud app makes accessing these boards on the go possible as well for iOS and Android users.

As you can see, regardless of team / company size, there are many e-kanban solutions available on the market and the sooner you try one, the quicker you’ll see why kaban isn’t just for making cars.


Kanban Tools (2017). Kanban Board Online. Kanban Tools. Retrieved from https://static.kanbantool.com/home/kanban-board-online.png

McCue, TJ. (2013, January 8). Why Infographics Rule. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2013/01/08/what-is-an-infographic-and-ways-to-make-it-go-viral/#74314617272c

Kanban [Def. 1]. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster Online. In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kanban

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