15 Apr 2011

Using Kanban to Increase Productivity… and Creativity?

Kanban to Increase Productivity and Creativity

At Vertical Measures, we’re always trying to do things better.  Whether it’s staying current on what Google is up to, training on methods and tools, or sharing knowledge at a lunch and learn – we’re constantly moving and improving.

As clients come to us more and more for content marketing, there has been an upswing in the amount of creative projects we are managing. This is awesome, but we want to make sure we’re careful to grow in healthy ways. This led to David Gould and I stepping back and re-assessing how we handle creative projects.

At one time, there had been a distinction between who would work on creative projects for clients and who would support our internal projects. While this made some sense on paper, it didn’t seem to be the most effective or efficient use of our creative resources going forward.

We had both heard of Agile project management, but weren’t sure how it would work for a creative department. So we met with Alan Daley – an Agile Coach – to see what he thought about the idea.

We talked about Scrum, but its timeboxes are too strict for the pace at which we operate.

So he brought up Kanban – a fairly straightforward project management methodology that would provide some guidelines, alert us to bottlenecks and provide transparency to the rest of VM. We liked it and could easily see how Vertical Measures could benefit from its application.

We decided to unify the creative department (no more client/internal split) and implement Kanban. Our first task was to identify our current process and divide things into phases. We identified 10 types of projects we’ve worked on in the past couple weeks, so we wouldn’t be able to unify the processes at the task level, but we were able to group all of those individual tasks into the phases of Concept, Production, and Finalize.

Kanban Board

As you can see on the board, each project gets a sticky note. Client projects go on pink notes, and internal projects go on yellow. Each project starts in a backlog that anyone can contribute to, but they are prioritized by the Director of Client Services and the Content & Marketing Manager. When we have availability, a ready project moves into our To Do column and we take it through the three phases until it is complete, then we analyze our throughput every two weeks and identify points for improvement.

There’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it.

So what does this mean to you?

A unified creative department means your project is less likely to get stuck behind another project, and will benefit from the experience and strengths of more people. So in short, we can be more productive AND more creative.

The beauty of Agile methodologies is their adaptability, so our process will likely shift and evolve as we seek to constantly improve it. We’re excited to see how using Kanban will allow us to do more for our clients and the rest of our Vertical Measures team.

Do any of you use project boards in your department/organization?


  • Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe Apr 15, 2011

    I am always looking to improve productivity and Kanban sounds like a good solution. Sticky notes work too. :)


  • Agile Scout Apr 25, 2011

    Looks good! Great work here! Sticky notes and a simple board are king!

  • Erica T. May 12, 2011

    What’s “D” and “K” standing for?
    Multi-colored post-it notes in a nice touch…

    We use a web board – smartQ (www.getsmartQ.com) for our distributed team. But for personal tasks I still use a whiteboard.

  • Ashley Cole Jun 07, 2011

    Everyone in this sector must mind to improve productivity. And here we found a good solution. We must follow it and spread it. This method is the best I agreed.

  • Dan Neumann Feb 04, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your experience using Kanban for creative work that is not software. I will be training and coaching a marketing team that is interested in Kanban and it will be nice to share with them another non-software team’s use of it.