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Kanban best practices: how to be better at planning

Kanban best practices: how to improve your project management workflow

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With Kanban, you can get the best out of your work. You can do more with less, and you can focus on what matters. However, Kanban is only as good as you are in using it. Thus, in this post, we say a few words on Kanban best practices, and how to be better at planning by using them.

Kanban best practices
Kanban best practices allow you to be better at project management.

If you are not familiar with Kanban, you can take this tutorial on how to use Kanban. In fact, we assume you already know how to work with Kanban in this article. I also recommend registering for a tool to actually do Kanban, like Trello.

Okay, now it is time to be better project managers.

Kanban best practices

Limit the “Work in progress”

If you just take one thing out of this post, make sure it is this. Limit the work in progress. No matter how you call your columns, you will have one column that contains the activities you are doing. Limit the number of tasks you put in that column.

Decide that you can have, say, at most 5 tasks in progress at the same time, but no more.

If you need to do one more task, you need to complete one that is in progress first.

Why is this important? Because you ensure you finish things. If you don’t do that, you may end up with some tasks that never finish. For example, you may undertake a new super-important task to avoid dealing with another that is more painful to finish. If you don’t do that, you risk to let the scope of your project out of control.

Doing this is simple, and it only takes one thing: discipline. Be disciplined, limit your work in progress pipeline. The number of tasks to limit yourself to is up to you. As a general rule, the fewer the better.

Be crystal clear in each card

Since cards contain user stories most of the time, it is easy to write a lot. You want to ensure other people get your story right, after all. The thing is, people don’t like reading, and the more you write the more your readers will capture only a part of the content.

So write less.

Be simple, be sleek. If your story really doesn’t fit in a few phrases, maybe you got your story wrong. If that’s the case, try to split the story into smaller ones, so that each can comfortably fit on a card.

The aim of this point is to ensure everyone gets each story right. Besides that, it will ensure each story is a manageable piece of work. Of course, you need to pair it with the next point.

Be specific

In Kanban best practices like in life: be clear about what you want. In each card, detail exactly what is the story, and be sure people understand how the story can be implemented.

To exemplify this to the extreme, “I want the app to be beautiful” is not really specific. It is ambiguous, and people will struggle to understand. Instead, follow the Kanban best practices and write something like “I want the app to have the same color scheme on all devices (including website)”. This is clear and gives a clear indication of how to proceed.

In other words, don’t be afraid to go to the point.

Keep things small

You want to implement your story as fast as possible. So, the story must be something quick to implement. Ideally, you want anyone to take your story and complete it in less than a day. In this way, you remove the dread of leaving things open from one day to another – not to mention the weekend.

Besides ensuring that things get actually done, this makes planning easier. In fact, each task has little variability, and this ultimately reduces the risk of the project.

So, rather than keeping things small, keep cards small, or better yet the work that you need to accomplish them.

Wrap up Kanban best practices

In this quick post, we saw four key pillars for a great use of Kanban. If you follow those guidelines you will be managing projects like no one else. In case you are in a hurry (TL;DR), here are the core concepts.

  • Limit how many tasks you have in progress to ensure things get actually done. That’s the most important.
  • The less you write in each card, the better.
  • Be specific when defining each story.
  • Ensure you can implement the story of each card in a day or less.

Hopefully, these suggestions will bring value to you and your team. If you have other suggestions to improve the management of a project with Kanban just let me know in the comments and I will include them in the post if they are reasonable.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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Alessandro Maggio

2020-04-16T16:30:07+00:00

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