To help entrepreneurs put structure around their marketing efforts, we published Leet Digital’s agile marketing framework here. In that article, we touched on one of our key project management tools: the Kanban board (image below).

In this article, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into the Kanban board and will guide you on how to use it to plan out tasks based on your 1-page strategy. If you haven’t already completed your 1-page strategy, feel free to jump back a step and review this article before we go forward. It’s ok, we’ll wait…

For marketing, we’ve found the following workflow to be most effective in setting up our Kanban board:

New > SMART goals > Objectives, outcomes, and milestones > Backlog (> 30 days) > Current month (< 30 days) > Current sprint > Currently doing > QA > Stakeholder approval > Done

At Leet Digital, we use the app Asana to organise and manage all our Kanban boards. Of course, there are other tools out there that can do the same thing (such as Trello or Avaza). I recommend that you consider what works best for you, given your overall budget and what tool you think everyone on your team will stick to.

Once you’ve selected your project management tool and have your 1-page strategy handy, we can begin populating the board. 

Creating your cards (or tasks)

Let’s begin by reviewing the three key components of the 1-page strategy:

Recall, our SMART (strategic, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals can be deconstructed into key outcomes, objectives, and milestones, which then break down into our key initiatives and tactics.

To complete our key initiatives and tactics, we’ll further simplify each aspect and populate the cards/tasks. Even though it can feel like you’re working in reverse, completing tasks based on the tactics and initiatives actually moves you towards your outcomes, objectives, and milestones, which (should) then enable you to achieve your SMART goals. 

The “New” column

Based on your initiatives and tactics, start creating cards in the “New” column of your Kanban board. What you add will depend on your initiatives and tactics, and – beyond that – your individual and collaborative processes. 

For example, you might have a particular framework you follow for search engine optimisation (SEO) with its own corresponding tasks that differ from how another marketer/team completes their SEO. I recommend always creating the cards that are relevant for you and your project needs.

You should place everything you can think of that you’ll need to do throughout this project in the “New” column. After all, this is the beginning of your production line and the place where any raw idea, task, or item can be added. No matter how silly or unsure you are of the value of the card, we always encourage project teams to add anything into the “New” column. That is because when you complete your sprint plan, you will evaluate every card in that column, assessing whether it should move forward in the production line, be backlogged, or removed. (Note, a sprint is a set period of time to complete specific tasks and have them ready for review). 

Moving along to the next two columns, we have SMART goals and Objectives, outcomes, and milestones. Go right ahead and copy/paste these directly from your 1-page strategy. It’s also not uncommon to add new cards here, as ideas for experiments or other new initiatives pop up that may help your team progress towards their SMART goals. 

While there are exceptions, typically any cards generated down the production line should be cards that help your team work towards an objective, outcome, or milestone. Otherwise, it’s likely that the card will be a distraction, not well-thought-out, and perhaps even irrelevant.

Planning and prioritising tasks

Now that we have the basics in place, we are ready to start planning tasks. This is a simple matter of pulling everything forward one-by-one from the “New” column into the relevant columns down the Kanban board. I recommend that you place your cards into each of the following columns based on their priority level:

  • Backlog (> 30 days) 
  • Current month (< 30 days) 
  • Current sprint

Backlog (> 30 days)

Any cards that aren’t due in under 30 days go into the backlog.

Current month (< 30 days)

This category is meant for items (cards) due in the next 30 days but that do not form part of the current sprint.

Note, it may not always be necessary to disentangle the backlog from the current month. However, as projects grow in size and complexity, we’ve found separating short-term and longer-term cards helps with managing the workload and planning ahead.

Current sprint

These are the cards that bear on the work you’ll need to do during this sprint, and where the team’s primary focus should be day-to-day. At the start of each sprint, cards that need to be completed within the sprint cycle should be pulled ahead from the backlog and into the current month category. 

Let the Sprint begin

You’re now set to start sprinting! Pull tasks forward each sprint from the “Current sprint” column-by-column across the Kanban board until all the work is done. At Leet Digital, our workflow is as follows:

  • Currently Doing 
  • QA (quality assurance) 
  • Stakeholder approval 

Currently doing

As a team member is working on a card, they must pull it forward into the “Currently Doing” category to give everyone an “at a glance” of work in progress. Typically, each team member should only work on one card at a time. Often, if you find that a card is sitting too long it either needs to be broken down into smaller cards, or there may be dependencies for the card

that are blocking the progress. This is where the daily stand-up meetings we covered in the previous article help ensure tasks keep moving ahead.

QA (quality assurance)

Once a Leet team member completes their card, it moves to the QA category. Marketing tasks often involve some sort of creative element – whether content, websites, campaigns, social media, or email – so it’s always wise to get a second set of eyes to approve a task before it’s marked as “Done”. On our team, this is normally done with a project manager or a client-facing account manager, who are best positioned to understand the client’s expectations. 

Stakeholder approval

After the QA is complete, there are often other stakeholders who need to give their final approval for a task before it can be marked as “Done”. 

For example, the IT team might need to approve of a change to your website after the marketing team has completed the website task they were working on. 

Done

All completed cards go here. Now’s the time to pat yourself on the back, grab a drink, or go surfing. 

There you have it, that’s how to use the Kanban board to turn your 1-page strategy into something you can act on. 

Let’s recap:

  1. Create your cards or tasks
  2. Plan and prioritise tasks
  3. Let the sprint begin!

Following this step-by-step gets you completing the tasks day-to-day that should help you achieve your SMART goals. Next, you’ll need to complete your retrospective with your team and stakeholders at the end of your sprint. You can read more about how to do that and also download our retrospective template here. Until then, happy sprinting!

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by Myron Festejo

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August 28, 2019

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