When you have a large paper with multiple parts or a
collaborative project with people working on a multitude of tasks, tracking the
progress of the project and identifying issues or roadblocks can be
difficult and time consuming. Kanban
boards can be a useful tool to help keep your next project or paper on track
and save you time in the process.
Kanban (or 看板in
the original Japanese) is a lean method inspired by the Toyota Production System,
developed by Taiichi Ohno in the 1940s. Literally translated from the Japanese term, Kanban means “billboard”
and indicates the “available capacity (to work)”. For decades, Kanban boards were utilized
primarily for manufacturing and production. David J. Anderson in his 2010 seminal work entitled, “Kanban: Successful
Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business”, built on the work of his
predecessor Taiichi Ohno and others, and brought the Kanban concept from
production to IT, software development and knowledge work in general.
What is a Kanban Board?
Simply put, a Kanban board is a whiteboard with columns and sticky notes. The board encapsulates a project. Columns represent a stage or
phase in the workflow/project. Sticky
notes represent a task, issue, or step, which can be easily color coded by task
or person responsible.
While classic Kanban board models have three columns, “To
Do”, “Doing” and “Done”, the number and title of the columns can be adjusted to
fit almost any project. As the project develops
you add sticky notes to the board to the “To Do” column. As work begins on a task, the representative
sticky note is moved through the phases (columns), allowing you to visually
track the progress of a project at a glance.
Kanban boards are essentially a system of efficient
communication and signaling. They
increase visibility and transparency allowing for better workflow management,
while the flexibility and responsiveness of Kanban boards allows them to be
adapted to nearly any project or workflow.
Use in Law School
One of the benefits of a Kanban board is its flexibility. A board is adaptable to a variety of projects you may encounter
in law school, such as drafting a brief or journal article. For example, if your project involved the
completion of a final paper that involved legal research you could use the
columns: To Do, Researching, Writing, Editing, etc. Sticky notes could represent issues that have
been identified and need to be addressed in the paper.
Additionally, Kanban boards aren’t limited to physical white
boards or walls. For collaborative
projects, newer online Kanban board systems are available and allow for group
editing and access. Online group access
allows team members to effortlessly keep their team up to date on their
progress. This visual update eliminates
wasted time spent checking in on the status of tasks or projects and increases
transparency, allowing for a more efficient workflow.
If you are interested in learning more about Kanban Boards,
here are some resources to help you get started: