Saturday, May 19, 2018

Do’s and Don’ts: Use a Kanban Board!

Sometimes managers and executives want to know only the basic status of a task or project. Questions like “Has it started?” or “Is it done?” are not calling for a detailed analysis of whether performance is going as planned. They are quick questions demanding a quick answer.

In this blog entry I am going to create a “Kanban Board” that gives at-a-glance answers to those basic questions. It looks like this in Project: (Click on figures to enlarge)


The “Kanban Board” clearly shows what is completed, what is in progress and what is not started. If your organization uses Agile techniques in managing projects, you will recognize the “Kanban Board” as a tool to help you and your management team manage workflow in projects.

The “Kanban” technique was originally imagined by Toyota to capture workflow. It can have more than the three states used in this example depending on need and preference. Conduct a web search on “Kanban” to get more details on this excellent technique.

In its simplest form, a“Kanban Board” look like this:


Note that the “Simple Kanban Board” and the “Kanban Board” shown in Project contain  similar information. The difference between the two  is that one is a formula-driven table in Microsoft Project while the other is yellow sticky notes. Both work, but by incorporating the Project table a complete schedule can be managed at any level during the project’s life cycle.

The “Kanban Board” avoids graphic details such as those found in the “Tracking Gantt”:


Note that the project file used for this blog entry is actually a small portfolio of projects organized by departments. For the sake of clarity dedicated resources from each department are assigned to their department’s projects. The Tracking Gantt gives detailed information regarding slipping tasks, performance to plan, variance and even illustrates the critical path. These are obviously important details, but are not the focus of the “Kanban Board.”

In order to create a “Kanban Board” in Microsoft Project a small amount of customization has to be done. A custom field, a custom view and a custom group all interrelate and give you this simple and effective tool.

The custom field should be an unused text field. This is critical! You will overwrite existing data if you choose a text field already in use.

Here are the steps to create a “Kanban Board:”

    1. Select the “Project” tab and then click on “Custom Fields.”

      2. Select an open text field, then click on the “Rename…” button to give the text field a unique name. I chose “Kanban Board” for consistency.


          3. Click on the “Formula…” button to enter the formula that will control the Kanban Board. Enter the formula as shown in the figure below. You may have to adjust the formula for your specific system. For example, some systems require a single quote rather than the double quote.


              4. Once the formula is entered, select “OK.” You now have the custom field needed for the “Kanban Board.”

                5. Insert your new “Kanban Board” field into the table of your choice. Once inserted, the formula should populate the field indicating their completion state.


                  6. Prepare a Group to organize the project by completion state. Select the “View” tab then from the “Group by:” dropdown list choose “New Group By…” and enter the information below into the Group Definition dialog.

                  7. Click on the “Save” button to save your new custom group.


                  8. Create a new View to use the new field and group. Select the “View” tab and from the list of “Task Views” click on “More Views…”

                  9. Enter the information below into the new View Definition dialog.


                  10. Finally, test your new view by selecting the “Task” tab, then selecting your “Kanban Board” from the list of custom task views. It should look similar to the figure below.


                  If you wish to create a report based on the view, simply create a new table report using the “New Report” wizard in the “Report” tab and apply the “Kanban Board” group in the report’s Field List. Show all tasks in the outline level and you have the complete tool in Project. Congratulations! In ten steps you have created a custom field containing a formula, a custom Group and a custom View to show off your new “Kanban Board.”