I can kanban, can you?

At Pellucid Analytics I get to work with many non-bankers. My team has a varied background that, in addition to bringing a mix of skills, brings with it new jargon and processes. One of which I have found so useful I’ve adopted it myself.

Meet the kanban board.

Roughly translated, kanban means “sign you can see” in Japanese and is a management approach to managing logistical chains of information. What’s interesting to bankers is not the kanban approach itself, but the board—that is, the visual planning technique.

The software engineers and designers I work with use it to keep track of work in development, moving items from “do”, to “doing” and eventually to “done.” It looks a bit like this:


This can be made to look more like something you’re used to seeing across the Street.


This probably looks a little similar to a whiteboard in your office. But, unlike my kanban board, that’s where it will stay.

Recently I met with a former colleague, a vice chairman at a bulge bracket bank, and seeing his “client planning whiteboard” on the wall I asked, “Does it annoy you that you can’t access this while on the road?”

Indeed, he agreed, the board’s lack of mobility is a major hindrance. Normally, it’s when you’re on the road that you need to change your plans. If you’ve just finished a client meeting where new information was shared, you want to adjust your resources and strategic approach that day, not four days later once you’re back in the office.

It’s not only bankers conceptualizing client strategies that need an easy-to-use system. Project staffers who manage the allocation of resources (junior bankers) for each client request need a similar project management tool.

To be really useful, a kanban board needs to be mobile and collaborative, instead of office-based and supplemented by Microsoft Outlook for project management. Consumer tools like Trello and Workflowy excel at this, providing multiple ways information can be annotated and organized, with easy rearranging of short and long term client priorities. In fact, Trello is used to manage Fix The Pitch content, which consists of coordinating various edits, approvals, and design iterations across different time zones and multiple team members. Depending on the use, it’s worth a conversation with your IT team about secure, mobile kanban options that will sync to your various drives.

Since adopting kanban boards, it’s definitely been easier to effectively plan personal and work life. Test it out and let me know what you think. Are there any other productivity or planning tools you think investment bankers should adopt? Let me know at adrian.s.crockett@gmail.com.