More than anyone else, project leaders and mangers ask me again and again one question: “Does a Kanban board replace a project plan?” The answer is, as is often the case with me, “It depends.” First of all, a plan mostly describes the timeframe of a project in advance. The question is for which type of initiatives this makes sense. For example, the ideas in an innovation process are difficult to generate according to a plan. You cannot simply say, “By milestone X, I will have a groundbreaking idea.” It looks different, however, for tasks and processes that are denoted as highly certain. An automobile supplier knows inside and out how to develop a standard steering wheel and approximately how long it takes. Small modifications don’t have a great effect because the basic principle doesn’t change. In this case, plans help to maintain an overview and give a relatively stable preview of what will and can happen after coordinating with other plans.
What I want to say is: Plans make more or less sense depending on the context.
So. If I hold myself to the definition that a plan describes a timeframe, then the visualization of work on a Kanban board is not a plan, just a part of one. A Kanban system only shows a snapshot of what is relevant right now and why it is being worked on right now and which dependencies exist right now. What happened before the current right now can be found in the Done area, i.e. the work that was just completed. What will, and should, come after the current right now can be found in the Option area. Within a plan, a Kanban system can help keep an overview of the upcoming and completed work, help guide the right players to have the right discussions in front of the board, help manage the dependencies, remove blockers, help bring the work into a logical sequence and help maintain a good workflow by limiting parallel work.
In principle, a Kanban system is an additional tool for the project plan.