Team involvement through Kanban

Project managers face many challenges, large and small, in their daily work. One of the biggest challenges for project managers is to effectively engage their team in the work process to ensure project success. Team involvement is critical to project success as it increases productivity, promotes collaboration and enables better communication. Project managers can use a number of methods and tools to achieve this. One of these methods is Kanban, which many project managers are familiar with as a method for limiting the workflow. In this article you will learn why Kanban can also be used to improve team involvement.
A group of people jumping into the air.


Why team involvement is important

Involving the team in project management is crucial for several reasons: it is an essential factor for the efficiency, motivation and satisfaction of team members, which in turn has a significant impact on the success of the project. When employees feel that their opinions are valued and their skills are put to good use, they are more likely to give their best and commit to the project. In addition, greater team involvement also leads to greater employee satisfaction and loyalty, which in turn reduces staff turnover and saves costs in the long run, as new employees do not have to be trained over and over again. After all, it is precisely during this time that many resources are tied up because one employee has to be trained while another is on hand to advise. Another important aspect is the improvement of communication within the team. Open and transparent communication promotes trust in the team and helps to reduce misunderstandings and conflicts. A good communication culture also helps to clarify common goals and expectations and keep the team on track. If all team members are actively involved in the project and communicate openly, they can solve problems together and work together in a more goal-oriented way. This way, problems can be solved efficiently, and potential difficulties can be identified and addressed at an early stage. Good communication within the team also improves self-organisation. Team members who feel responsible for their tasks are more likely to take the initiative, make decisions and solve problems independently. This relieves the project management and promotes an agile, flexible and self-determined way of working, which can lead to innovation and creativity. Employees who feel part of the project are more likely to contribute ideas and solutions that can optimise the project process and improve project results. These creative processes enable innovative solutions and strengthen the company's competitive advantage.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a visual method for controlling and optimising workflows and processes that is used in project management in particular. The term "Kanban" comes from Japanese and literally means "card". In this context, it refers to the use of cards or other visual elements to represent tasks and track their progress within a defined process.
Kanban originated with the Toyota Motor Corporation. In the 1940s, Toyota developed a system based on the idea of just-in-time production that aimed to increase production efficiency, reduce waste and optimise inventory. In the meantime, Kanban has become a widely used method for managing workflows in various industries and sectors.

Kanban is based on six practices:

Practice 1 - Visualise work processes: By visualising workflows through cards and columns, processes and tasks become more transparent, making it easier for team members to track progress. This promotes progress and bottlenecks are identified more quickly.

Practice 2 - Limit work-in-progress: Limiting work-in-progress helps to increase focus on important tasks and improve efficiency by avoiding multitasking and overload. To this end, the work-in-progress limit exists to ensure that only a limited number of tasks are worked on at any one time.

Practice 3 - Manage task load: Effective task load management enables better resource allocation and prioritisation of tasks, reducing bottlenecks and improving team productivity. Therefore, focus on moving tasks smoothly through the process rather than giving detailed instructions to staff.

Practice 4 - Make process guidelines explicit: Making work guidelines clear facilitates understanding of expectations and responsibilities within the team, leading to improved quality of work and more efficient collaboration.

Practice 5 - Implement feedback loops: By implementing feedback loops, teams can continuously evaluate their performance, identify areas for improvement and adjust the work process. This promotes engagement and a sense of appreciation within the team.

Practice 6 - Improve collaboratively and develop empirically: Collaborative improvement and empirical development enables teams to learn from experience and continuously optimise existing processes to achieve higher efficiency and productivity.

Kanban boards are the central tool in the application of the Kanban method. They usually consist of a board or a digital surface divided into vertical columns representing the different phases of the work process (e.g. "To Do", "Work in Progress" and "Done"). The work tasks are pinned to the board in the form of cards or post-its or written down on digital cards, linked on the board and moved between the columns depending on the progress of the work. This way, team members can see at a glance which tasks are currently being worked on, which are still open, and which have already been completed. This promotes transparency and communication within the team and enables bottlenecks and problems to be identified and resolved at an early stage.

How Kanban can contribute to team involvement

Kanban can contribute to team involvement in many ways and thus support project success. Through its visual nature and clear structure of the work process, Kanban creates an environment in which employees are actively involved and motivated.
By increasing transparency, the work process becomes visible and tangible for all team members. Each team member can see at a glance which tasks are pending, which are in progress, and which have been completed. This transparency promotes a sense of responsibility and helps to strengthen the self-organisation and commitment of the employees by actively participating in the planning and implementation.
Another advantage of Kanban is that it helps to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in the project process. By limiting the number of tasks to be worked on at the same time (work-in-progress limits) and continuously monitoring the flow of work, potential problems and delays can be identified at an early stage. This enables the team to proactively respond to challenges and develop solutions to optimise the workflow. Eliminating bottlenecks leads to improved efficiency and productivity and helps employees feel that they are making a meaningful contribution to the success of the project.
All of this promotes collaboration and information sharing. Through the Kanban board, information about the work process and the status of tasks is centralised and made easily accessible. This facilitates communication between team members and reduces possible misunderstandings or information gaps. In addition, Kanban promotes regular review and discussion of the work process in the team, which in turn strengthens cohesion and mutual understanding.
By using Kanban, project managers can create an environment in which employees are motivated and engaged, which ultimately leads to better project performance and success.

How project managers can use Kanban to effectively involve the team

Project managers can use Kanban to improve team engagement and thus increase productivity and efficiency. Below are some steps you can follow as a project manager:
  • Create a Kanban board that is tailored to the team's needs: First, it is important to create a Kanban board that meets the specific needs and workflows of the team. This can be a physical or a digital board. The columns of the board should represent the different phases of the work process. It can be helpful to involve the team in the design of the board to ensure that all aspects of the work process are included and that the board is understandable to all team members.
  • Limit work-in-progress: To manage the team's workload and encourage focus on current tasks, project managers should set work-in-progress limits for each phase of the work process. These limits should be set based on the capacity of the team and the complexity of the tasks. It is important to review these limits regularly and adjust them if necessary. 
  • Use Kanban actively to motivate employees: You should encourage your team members to actively participate in the work process and take responsibility for their tasks. Kanban can contribute to this by enabling employees to track the progress of their work and make their performance visible. In addition, continuous improvement of the work process can help employees feel valued and encouraged by allowing them to contribute their ideas and suggestions to optimise the process.
  • Use Kanban to improve communication and cooperation in the team: This can be achieved, for example, through regular team meetings in which the progress of tasks, possible bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement are discussed. Open and constructive feedback in the team promotes trust and mutual understanding, which in turn leads to better cooperation.

Best practices in using Kanban for employee involvement

Some best practices ensure that the Kanban method is tailored to the needs of the team and is continuously optimised:
  • Regularly review and adjust the Kanban board: The Kanban board should not be a rigid instrument. The project managers should regularly review the board together with the team and adjust it if necessary to ensure that it corresponds to the current workflows and requirements. Continuous improvement of the board helps to keep it relevant and useful to staff.
  • Define clear roles and responsibilities: To encourage staff involvement, project managers should define clear roles and responsibilities within the team. This helps team members to better understand their roles and responsibilities and to actively engage in the work process. This also promotes self-organisation.
  • The team plans and organises its tasks independently, and Kanban supports this by enabling team members to make the work process transparent and comprehensible.
To measure the effectiveness of Kanban in terms of employee involvement, project managers can use different metrics and indicators, such as lead time, which tells how much time it has taken to complete a task since it was announced, or the aforementioned work-in-progress limit, which are quantitative metrics, or employee feedback, which is a qualitative indicator.


Kanban is an agile method that promotes transparency, flexibility and continuous improvement. By using Kanban boards, project managers can visualise the work process, identify bottlenecks and improve team collaboration. Involving employees through Kanban contributes to better communication, higher motivation and increased productivity. Project managers can use Kanban boards and adapt them to the needs of their team to achieve effective employee engagement.
Kanban is a promising method to involve employees in projects. In addition, there are other ways to engage employees in project management, such as implementing other agile methods and frameworks (e.g., Scrum), creating an open feedback culture or organising regular team meetings. By continuously improving and adapting project management to the needs of the team, companies can sustainably increase project success and employee satisfaction.

Team involvement through Kanban - The IAPM logo
Author: IAPM internal
Schlagworte: Projektmanagement, Kanban, Leadership

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