Reflective essay Reto Bürki
In agile project management methods, the essential thing is the creation of solution-oriented
and self-organized teams and promotion of personal initiative and responsibility. In addition,
the self-control and the rules of cooperation evolve by themselves. Lively knowledge transfer
in the project and measurability of the completion are further characteristics.
Agile project management method Kanban
The Kanban method was developed by the Japanese automaker Toyota in the 1950s to opti-
mize the production process. David Anderson transferred the concept to the IT industry in
2007 and made it possible to make Kanban more efficient also for projects with production
At Kanban, great attention is paid to avoiding bottlenecks that could slow down the produc-
tion process. The goal is to achieve faster turnaround times.
Kanban has three important components: workflow visualization, work in progress (WIP)
limit, and cycle time. The workflow is visualized in Kanban via a Kanban board. The Kanban
board can also be in digital form. The individual columns show the activities of the value
chain that a task has to go through before it is done.
WIP describes the number of tasks that can be processed simultaneously with existing em-
ployees. Each column has its own WIP limit. If the WIP limit is exceeded, there will be a bot-
tleneck that will interrupt the task flow. Cycle Time specifies the time it takes for a task to
complete. For this, the task must have gone through all steps of the value chain.
Kanban boards are an agile project management method that supports the coordination of
tasks in project work.
Kanban and agile project management compared to the traditional project management
Many project managers would like to use agile methods in their teams. However, the risk of
switching to agile project management often seems too high and often it is not supported by
the management of the firms. However, teams, customers and requirements in individual pro-
jects will become increasingly complex and dynamic in the future. Kanban can be easily com-
bined with traditional project management methods. It should be noted, however, that Kanban
is suitable in the IT industry and for the application of projects with processes and, for exam-
ple, less for the construction industry.
Integration management at the start of the project
Roles and the responsibilities of the project members are clearly defined in the traditional
method. The project organization has thereby the key position. The project manager and the
members of the project team are assigned to different areas for which they are responsible. In
traditional project management, the project leader is the main actor.
Often, the role definition does not match the real capabilities needed in a project. In the Kan-
ban method, roles are described more abstractly, one looks at a team member with a certain
professional character. Fixed tasks are not automatically tied to a role.
It proves to be particularly effective to distribute responsibility and roles according to the situ-
ation. Solution-oriented self-organized teams are a great way to realize this type of work-shar-
ing and distribution.
The focus of the teams is not the adherence to rigid roles, procedures and processes, but an
open communication and the own responsibility to recognize necessary solution steps situa-
tional and to implement.
In traditional project management, process models are usually standardized with typical com-
mon goals such as the common understanding of all involved and the improvement of internal
and external cooperation. The interchangeability of project participants and the comparability
of projects and measurement of work status are at the center of attention.
The agile method often dispenses with far-reaching and, above all, detailed standardization.
As a substitute for this, the self-organized teams and the approach to constantly improve. This
does not mean that there are no standardizations. However, they relate more to interaction in
The agile method is primarily about values, transparency, communication and cooperation
and not about processes or tools. Thus, intangible assets are more in focus than in the classic
method of controlling and measuring ratios.
Other core elements of Kanban are the fast and flexible response to changes in the project, re-
sulting in flexible implementation, enabled due to flat hierarchies, a high degree of customiza-
tion, communication and personal responsibility in the project team. The goal is to work
closely and cooperatively with the customer through all project phases to achieve the best
possible customer satisfaction.
In standardized procedure models in traditional project management, the concrete tasks are
assigned through work breakdowns (WBS). For the work packages and tasks, the responsibili-
ties and roles for the project members for all are clearly defined in advance. Interfaces are
avoided because the work packages are independent of each other. The services are continu-
ously measured and assessed on schedule and budget.
Kanban assigns tasks differently. Each task is recorded on a Kanban card. depending on the
processing status, this card will move on a board from left to right until the task is solved. The
number of available task cards are limited so that the number of tasks is mutually coordinated.
It must be ensured that tasks are always in progress and that there is a steady workflow. By
transferring the task cards after a certain processing cycle, the workflow is created. The task
card hang up is usually done at a daily stand up meeting where all the team members involved
gather in front of the board to discuss the progress of the work. This increases transparency in
the work process. The stand up meeting takes place at fixed times. In other words, there is a
shift from the task-oriented traditional method to the people-oriented Kanban method. Kanban
also increases work motivation, as the individual teams work more independently, and the
team members take over their own tasks from the pool itself. The use of Kanban in project
work has the advantage that the management effort is reduced, and the processing speed can
Unforeseen changes in project requirements can be implemented flexibly and cost-neutral
with Kanban, even in late project phases, in the interests of added value for the customer. In a
traditional project management this is not the case, since especially in a later project imple-
mentation phase with individual changes can substantial additional costs arise.
Schedule and resource management
Standardized traditional models provide a high degree of interchangeability among project
participants. If a role is described sufficiently clearly, it can also be reoccupied. If a role needs
to be filled in the event of an exchange, one looks at a suitable candidate for the role profile
and integrate it into the existing team. The role profiles are intended to ensure a smooth pro-
In contrast, the team building process is a key issue in agile projects and teams, it is lived
more intensively than in the classic environment. In agile teams, replacing a person is rather
situational. The team needs are more important than the exact replacement of a predetermined
role. In the agile method, more emphasis is placed on experience, complementary knowledge
and social aspects than on purely technical factors. Thanks to a daily stand up meeting culture
and active knowledge transfer in the project, new team members can be quickly integrated.
Inevitably, so-called bottlenecks occur at Kanban, where the work jams, which is identified
by a larger number of Kanban cards with a person or in a sub-project team. At this point, the
system needs to be improved, for example by redeploying resources or redistributing work. In
the case of Kanban project work, care must be taken to ensure that the abilities and compe-
tences of the team members overlap so that the workflow is guaranteed even in the absence or
failure of individual employees.
Often traditional project management lacks the measurability of the benefits for the customer.
Agile methods are more appropriate because measuring the product's progress in the project
identifies the actual benefits. Within a project phase, the phases of requirement, design, devel-
opment and testing are passed through. At the end of each section, the exact ratio of results
achieved, and resources required can be measured and presented. This early measurability of
completion ensures an objective project controlling for customer satisfaction and trust.
In the traditional method, the degree of completion is the central parameter. The key figures
for deadlines and costs refer to the milestones of the procedure model.
Communications and information management
In the classical method, relationships and roles in a team and between the teams are defined
and often written down and include, among others; Area of responsibility, obligations and
powers. This creates a solid mutual expectation. That creates clarity and orderly relationships.
Everyone knows what he has to do and what is expected of him.
Often, however, everyday project life is not so clearly structured. Frequently, the lived com-
munication habits of individuals or entire teams are shaped differently than at the beginning.
In addition, not all possibilities and eventualities can be foreseen.
The Kanban does not impose strict rules on how a team has to communicate internally or with
other teams. In order to promote initiative and responsibility, the organization of communica-
tion is delegated to the teams.
Rules and standards are used in both methods, and collaboration and interfaces in and be-
tween teams and individual stakeholders will be defined in both methods, but this is more
stringent and inflexible in traditional project management than in the agile method. Every
team and every project are individually different, rules develop and control themselves. The
interaction and the lived transfer of knowledge are central to the agile method within the
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