Updated: Jul 16
Are you working on a continuous improvement project with a ton of moving pieces? The Kanban chart is a great tool to help you monitor your progress. Kanban charts come from the Kanban Method of workflow management. While they are most commonly used to track sales workflows, they work great in educational settings too! Kanban charts are useful tools for monitoring multiple processes across various phases.
One of my favorite things about the Kanban chart is that it works great at all levels of your organization –from personal planning to agency wide process management. I use Kanban charts to help me monitor the processes that help me efficiently run this blog and launch new content for The Repository. Another great thing about them is that they are living documents, they grow and change as your project evolves.
Essentially, a Kanban chart is a to-do list on steroids. It usually contains four or five columns. When I am using it at a personal level, I use these column headers: Back Log, To Do, In Progress, and Complete. When I am using them at the system level, I add a column for In Review to account for time spent at the leadership or decision-making level.
As with many of the other tools I have discussed on this blog, Kanban charts can work alone, or they can be nested within another tool. For example, if you are using a 30-60-90 day planning document to break down a big task into small pieces, you may use a Kanban chart to track daily progress within each planning window. If you are using a Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle to study and refine a process, you can use Kanban charts within your “do” phase to help break down the various tasks and track their progress through a workflow.
Kanban charts are also great if you want to track the progress of a set of repeated tasks within a system. As I mentioned earlier, this workflow management system is often used in a sales setting to help track clients as they work through the process; starting as a lead and ending as a satisfied client. Maybe you have a similar routine system in your school, such as newsletter development. You may have a number of to-dos that are required for releasing the monthly newsletter. A Kanban chart can help all the members of your team quickly see their progress towards completing the goals and help ensure that you get your newsletter out on time.
While I have included a template for the Kanban chart in my eBook “Tools that Drive Continuous Improvement”, I don’t actually recommend using a paper template to track your work. You will be better served by creating an editable Kanban model somewhere else. Some organizations display their Kanban charts on large whiteboards, or even painted directly on the wall of the conference room and use sticky notes to move tasks around. Other organizations house their Kanban charts in a virtual environment, building them in word processing or spreadsheet software. If you get really into Kanban charts, there are tons of services online, like Monday.com or Asana.com, that provide virtual Kanban tools that can be integrated into other planning or alert systems.
Next time you find yourself struggling to monitor a large number of to-dos through your processes, consider adding a Kanban chart to the mix. It is a simple and straight forward way to see all of your tasks and understand where they are along their journey to completion. You can find a template for deploying the Kanban chart and nine other useful continuous improvement tools in my eBook, Tools that Drive Continuous Improvement. You can download it for free in The Repository; I hope you find it helpful. Good luck on your journey friends!