Agile Management: Kanban Methodology for Public Relations Teams

You have tons of stuff to do and are struggling to keep you and your team organized. Your client has a list of things a mile long and everyday feels like you’re making no progress. Have you considered trying a Kanban methodology board?

Kanban is a method of managing a project team and their workload with “swim lanes”. The approach presents everyone with a full view of what is going on with each team member and client. Team members pull work from a queue or backlog, instead of having work pushed down on them. The goal of using Kanban is to improve efficiency and transparency.

Kanban Methodology Board
Photo Credit: Kanban board via Wikipedia

The board itself is a visual representation of the Kanban methodology. This can be anything from a PowerPoint slide, an Excel, Kanban software, a whiteboard or even a wall with sticky notes (my preferred method). The swim lanes are typically the following: backlog, in progress, blocked, ready for review, completed. You can have the tasks organized by client, person or priority. With my team each person has a different color sticky note with their specific tasks written on each note. The goal is to move the individual tasks from the backlog land to the completed lane as quickly as possible, generally within a few days. Tasks should be broken down into bite-size pieces. If a task is assigned that you and your team member know will take longer than a few days, your challenge is to break it into smaller pieces that can keep it moving and get accomplished quickly.

How does this work for a PR team? The Kanban methodology is most effective for project-based work. If your team is working on a new product launch or award submissions, a Kanban board might be the right approach for managing the tasks. Let’s say you have a month to complete the project. Can you break down the tasks to things your team can complete on a daily basis?

For example, if the deliverable is an award submission you could break down the task into pieces such as research the data for the award, outline the submission for review, draft the award, copyediting, client approval, and submission. Breaking down the task into smaller milestones keeps it more manageable and on track. As a manager, you can assign each piece to different team members or all of the pieces to one team member. Either way, the smaller milestones can have hard deadlines that ultimately add up to the final deliverable being on time.

“What if my team is remote?”

Great question. Remote teams are becoming more common place. Your team doesn’t need to be all in one place for the Kanban methodology to be effective. If anything, Kanban will help remote teams stay on top of what’s going on with other team members and clients.  If you have a remote team you can utilize an electronic Kanban board. There are many software tools to pick from or you can keep it simple and create your own from excel, for example.

“How often do I update my team’s Kanban board?”

Ideally you’d update it at a minimum once a day. If you’re an Agile shop, you would do this during your scrum. If not, find a 15-minute window of time every day (the same time everyday if possible) to check in with the team. During that time, you can check in with each team member, move tasks through the lanes and trouble shoot tasks that are blocked.

“How do I get started?”

Wait! Don’t just start a Kanban board to do it – make sure it’s what your team really needs. Kanban is one of many management methods that will help you and your team stay organized. Since implementing Kanban methodology with my team just about a year ago, we’ve been able to scale and increase profits through better prioritization, transparency and efficiency. Before implementing any new management techniques or overhauling your process, take a step back and evaluate where your teams weaknesses are. If you find that transparency, communication and productivity are among your challenges, Kanban may be for you.

Katie Lioy
Director, Marketing Technology


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