Three Productive Skills You Will Learn from Using the Kanban Board

Zoey Lê
Ensightful App Inc.
4 min readFeb 14, 2022

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The Kanban board is a project management tool designed to help teams visualize and facilitate workflow. Its simple mechanism uses cards as tasks and moves them between columns at different stages of the project. The tool is used in many organizations to help:

  • Maximize efficiency
  • Promote transparency
  • Prioritize the right tasks
The Kanban board helps the entire team visualize the workload and prioritize the right tasks.

Using Kanban boards in a professional environment is not a new practice. In fact, it is now the norm to use Kanban in most organizations. Frequently used in software development teams, the Kanban board has proven its capability to help teams prioritize tasks and facilitate workflow.

If it is such an important tool in the workplace, how come students are not being taught to use Kanban board in higher education?

Well, maybe because the Kanban board’s mechanism is so simple, you don’t really need skills to learn how to use it? What most people don’t realize is that there are positive productivity habits that you learn from using the Kanban board with a team. For students, picking up these habits early on means they will have more time to unlearn inefficient habits and become stronger collaborators.

Let’s go through the skills you can pick up while organizing your projects with Ensightful’s Kanban board.

Skill #1: Breaking down big projects

Starting a big project can be overwhelming. I would be lying if I say I haven’t procrastinated on projects at the thought of the sheer amount of work. The initial paralyzing phase goes away, but I can’t take back the time stressing over an imaginary intensive workload.

Here’s where the Kanban board can help, especially for people who are not yet efficient at breaking down tasks. Using the board forces you to break down a big project into smaller chunks. Ask yourself: how long does it take to work on a part of the project? Half a day, one day? Great, now that sounds doable. If a task takes longer than that, divide it into sub-tasks.

Whenever I break down a project, it shocks me how little time it actually takes to do it compared to the initial reaction I had in mind.

This method works well with teams - group projects can feel even more paralyzing at first. Using the Kanban board helps facilitate the necessary conversation about workload distribution. A shared board helps everyone stay on the same page, with all team members knowing what the others are responsible for. The Kanban board encourages transparency and feedback loops, an essential key to effective collaboration.

Skill #2: Detecting bottlenecks

Take a look at the task board below. Do you see any red flags?

What stands out immediately is the huge number of tasks in progress. This is not an indication of productivity, but rather a warning sign of bottlenecks.

A bottleneck is an obstacle that slows down the work process of a system. Think of it as congestion, where too much work is piling up without moving to the next stage. This causes a delay in the work process and interrupts the production system.

A neat feature of the Kanban board is how easily you can detect bottlenecks with it. When you spot a bottleneck, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate the workflow. Is a team member not pulling their weight? Or did procrastination cause the team to play catch up? Use the Kanban board to detect the issue and learn how you can work better as a team.

Skill #3: Avoid multitasking… to some extent

It has been proven that multitasking hinders productivity and quality of work. It is also a source of, guess what, ✨bottlenecks ✨! When you are juggling too many tasks at once, it feels like you are getting a lot done, but nothing is being moved to the Under Review column. Why not just get a task done and out of the way before moving on to the next one?

Try limiting your work in progress to only one or two tasks

If we are being honest, not multitasking is almost impossible these days. However, the Kanban board is a great way to visualize if you are taking on too many tasks and adjust your work process accordingly. As a team, you can stay focused and direct your attention to one task. At the end of the day, nothing beats the satisfaction of moving a task from the To-Do column to the Completed one.

Ultimately, the Kanban board is a simple tool to integrate into your work process, but it can be an incredibly powerful one when you know how to use it effectively. It is a tool trusted by many organizations, from small start-ups to big companies, for a good reason. Ensightful’s team management platform uses the Kanban board for this exact reason, so students of today can learn to become better collaborators of tomorrow.

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