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Who Uses A Kanban Board And When To Use It?

Who Uses A Kanban Board?

Kanban board is typically used by the whole team to visualize their workflow and manage work, but it can be also used by a team of teams, or leadership and management, as well as for personal use. Also, Kanban boards work both with teams that have the same or similar roles, as well as for teams who are cross-functional. Let’s dive into each.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Various Teams - Prodgoal

1. Kanban Board For Regular Teams

By observing the team’s process and work items of all team members on one board, each team member can understand the complete state of their work with just a glance. This enables everyone to be constantly up to date with current affairs, have less time wasted in unnecessary communication, and have an opportunity to act based on what is presented on the board.

All this leads to increased transparency and collaboration, which in turn create a lot more speed, value, and happiness while reducing waste and costs. If you would like to know not only who uses a Kanban board but also know the Why behind it and the top 9 reasons you should be using it, you can read more about it in this blog.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Homogenous Team - Prodgoal

2. Kanban Board For Cross-Functional Teams

When it comes to teams, they can be assembled out of the same or similar roles, but some of them can be very cross-functional. Kanban boards work with all types of teams and have even originated from somewhat cross-functional teams.

In traditional Kanban, which originates mostly from Toyota Lean manufacturing and production system, the idea of the board was to visualize the process and enable people of different roles and functions to be much more productive. How’s that? Well, for example, if someone observed that a person next to him or she has too much work, he or she could jump in, stopping the bottleneck from being created and thus enabling constant flow.

This can only be done if people are being trained to be cross-functional and this is what the Kanban board is constantly teaching us. If we see something blocked or some high-value work waiting, we need to find a way to swarm on it and get it done. And usually, the way to do this is to have people who are cross-trained.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Cross-Functional Team - Prodgoal

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone needs to know how to do everything. Teammates can help each other out and they can at least do some of the more basic tasks that will get people unstuck. On the other hand, the more they know the better and you will have a faster process which will produce much more value.

This does mean investing time and money into having a cross-functional team, but it’s very much worth it. Just imagine how would your flow look if all your team members could work the same. What would happen to blockers and bottlenecks? What would happen to productivity? If you are unsure about it, create an experiment and see what happens.

3. Kanban Board For Team Of Teams

When multiple teams are working together to deliver a bigger work item or an initiative, you usually start to hear the dreaded word “dependency” a lot. And this is usually a red flag that very few people know what exactly to do with. Everyone is hoping for the best, but most are already preparing for headaches. So, next time this happens, do yourself a favor and create a Kanban board for Team of teams because it can do wonders for solving dependencies. It can be both an online board or a physical one.

What does this mean? It simply means visualizing this joint work that you have on one board and bringing in all the benefits from the team’s board to this cross-team coordination. The same patterns that apply to the board of one team, apply to the work of multiple teams. You need to visualize your workflow and work items and you need to communicate to get the work done.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Team of Teams - Prodgoal

This doesn’t mean that all team members from all teams need to participate. No, this means that you only need a representative from each team (or maybe you need more people being the representatives or even the whole team - experiment your way to success) and that you need to set a regular cadence that you will meet on. It’s better to strive for short but frequent meetings, as opposed to long and infrequent.

It will take some time to establish this, but higher-level coordination and synchronization can do wonders for you. You can talk about all those dependencies almost instantly and find a way to solve them, together. Also, you can agree on priorities together and even talk about what is coming your way, so that you are prepared and can achieve optimal flow.

This high-level board is also known as a Flight level 2 board and you can read more about them on the Flight levels website. This is one of the things that I don’t see coming too often to people’s minds when they are thinking about “Who uses a Kanban board?”, but it’s one of the most impactful ones, if not the most impactful one.

4. Kanban Board For Management And Leadership

Just like Kanban boards can be used for teams and teams of teams, they can also be used at the Management and Leadership levels. The very same benefits of visualizing the work, the workflow, and the goals bring even more value at this level since everyone else in the company is affected by these boards.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Management and Leadership Team - Prodgoal

What is very important to understand is the overall company structure from the perspective of multiple boards. And what is even more important, is not to think that the teams are on one side, and Management and Leadership are on the other. The company is a big system with a certain hierarchy and the boards should follow this to help everyone out and enable alignment, laser focus, and great results.

When we talk about the teams, we are talking about the operation level, or Flight level 1. Teams of teams are at the coordinational level, or Flight level 2. This level can also include some of the managers. But, in most cases, management and leadership are on the strategic level, or Flight level 3.

This means that a board for management and leadership should be focused, first of all, on setting the right strategy. By doing so, leadership is creating alignment all across the company, since everyone is going to look at the main leadership board and check themselves if they are in line with the company’s goalsor not. Also, if goals are put this clearly in front of people, unambiguously prioritized, and progress is being tracked, you have just solved a problem that more than 9/10 companies that I’ve spoken to have.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Flight Levels - Prodgoal

It’s important to understand this and to see that this is the area where Management and Leadership can make the most impact. This is also important to understand because, on this level, you want to align everyone and give them clear priorities, and not go into the boards of the teams and spend time tracking what they are doing.

I do understand that people want to see what is happening on other boards, and that is fine and also one great benefit of the boards. But if you are a manager or a part of a leadership team, always try to let people manage their boards by themselves and when you want to look at the boards, don’t make it too obvious. If you start commenting on other people’s boards and constantly looking at them, you might be changing your style from leading and managing to controlling and micromanaging and nobody likes that.

Whenever you see yourself or one of the management or leadership colleagues doing something like this, try to see where the problems lie and try to tackle them differently. Also, have in mind that if you are a leader and if you are checking the team’s boards, you are probably not doing the most impactful work you could be doing, so it’s a double loss.

The last remark that I want to make here is that probably the best answer for “Who uses a Kanban board” would be - It should be everyone. And why do I say that? Because this kind of system, where everyone is using boards and there are connections and hierarchy between them, can transform your whole company and give you enormous speed, focus, value, and thus competitive advantage.

Make sure to try it out.

5. Kanban Board For Personal Use

If you need more focus in organizing your personal tasks and getting more things done during the day, then a personal Kanban board is the right choice for you. Even with the simplest form of the board, you can boost your productivity in no time and finally finish all those things that were waiting to be done for sooo long.

So, if you want to create a Kanban board for personal use, it’s super simple. Create a physical or an online board and just start by creating three columns named “To do”, “Doing” and “Done”, write down tasks on the cards, put them in appropriate columns, and give it a go!

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Personal Kanban - Prodgoal

Prioritize your tasks by ordering the cards from the most important ones on top and the least important ones on the bottom. Then take the topmost card, check if it’s not blocked, and then put it into the Doing column. Try to have as few items in the Doing column as possible.

You can even set a work in progress limit (WIP limit; or work in process limit) on the Doing column. A WIP limit of 1 would be perfect, but 2 is probably more realistic since some of your tasks will get blocked and if there is no way to unblock it, just take another one. But if you want to be a productivity master, always focus first on unblocking tasks before starting a new one.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool WIP Example Personal Kanban - Prodgoal

This way, since you have a personal Kanban board, you won’t have to remember each day what are the tasks that you need to do each, but you only need to look at the board. Also, since you are limiting your work in progress, you will have to try to finish what you have started first and this will get you to do all those tasks that we all have and would rather just infinitely postpone. So, work in process limits is great for fighting procrastination. And this happens easily since it’s your board and yours only so no one will push you forward except you.

I use this board myself and I’m not productive without it. Sometimes, I’m just too lazy to look at it and organize my work in it and this is when I mostly fail. Productivity goes down, chaos starts to emerge and a ton of things get forgotten. And when I use it daily, the opposite happens - tasks are getting done, I know what the priorities are and I can easily re-organize my work by just moving a few cards across the board. All that using just the “To do”, “Doing” and “Done” columns. Works like magic!

And again, answering the question from our title - Who uses the Kanban board? - I can tell you that I use it and that I cannot imagine my work life without it. At least, the productive side of my work.

That being said, if you are still unsure whether you should have a board for personal use or not, I encourage you to start small, but start today and keep using it. If you don’t want to invest too much up front before seeing if it will work for you, you can try out the free online Kanban board in ProdGoal.

​​When To Use A Kanban Board?

Use a Kanban board any time you want to succeed! It’s always the right time to visualize your process and work items and organize yourself around them. With this, you can take control of that very same process, deliver the most value in the least amount of time, and continuously improve.

For me, when to use this board is as simple as - whenever I want to do some work. Be it regular work, Agile, Kanban, Scrum, DevOps, ScrumBan, some personal plans, or even organizing household chores. It’s always good to draft a simple board and start using it because you will do much better with it.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool Example Team Success - Prodgoal

Kanban board does come from Kanban, as the name says, but when you start using it, you realize that it’s quite agnostic as you can see from the previous examples above. Its purpose is to help you succeed in organizing work, and this is what it does. The only thing that is the same throughout all uses is that by using it right, you will continuously succeed and improve.

One more great thing with this board is its flexibility. And in these ever-changing times, this is a very good thing and even something that makes the difference between the life or death of a business. With this board, you can act fast, you can change the course fast and you can continue delivering fast. And you can even improve as you are doing it, which is an enormous competitive advantage that you should have. Because, remember - if you don’t do it, your competitors will do it and this will hurt your business.

With that being said, the only thing that might be left for you is to try it out. There are many online Kanban boards and Kanban tools out there, but you are probably wondering - are these boards free, and even if it seems they are free - are they really free? Well, ProdGoal, it is. ProdGoal provides a completely free online Kanban board. You are completely free to try it out anytime as well as cancel anytime you want.

So, don’t worry anymore about when to use a Kanban board, but give it a try and see how it can do wonders for you.

Free Online Kanban Board Tool in ProdGoal - Simple Example