How to create a Kanban Board

How to Create a Kanban Board: A Practical Guide

Visualization of your workflow is one of the primary practices of Kanban. A good Kanban board helps you track your progress and spot blockage points in your workflow at a glance. This transparency will enable you to improve your work stages, your workload, and your efficiency. However, if you search for Kanban board examples, most of the time they are not a good fit for your specific needs, especially if you are working in a non-IT area.

How to design your Kanban board

The very first Change Management Principle of Kanban states, “start with what you do now.” However, this can be overwhelming if you own multiple different types of projects and tasks. 

Recommended for you: Kanban Foundations online course

It’s always a good idea to collaborate with your team members and utilize the group’s wisdom. A quick guided brainstorming session will help you gather the information you need, so you can reflect this on your board effectively and creatively. Keep in mind that the board will be an essential part of your working day, and it needs to be updated regularly by your team members. That’s why it’s crucial to come up with a board that is easy to understand and update. If you overcomplicate things, it will have a negative impact on efficiency and discourage your team members from using it correctly. However, don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect the first time: creating a Kanban board is an iterative process and you will be able to improve it over time. 

Step 1: Ask the key questions

Before starting to lay down your daily tasks and processes, first, align on some key questions.

  • For whom are we designing the board? Is it only for our internal purposes, or will our stakeholders also benefit from it? 
  • What are the most critical points for us? What do we want to see with the first look? The workload? The blockers? Status of individual tasks?
  • How detailed shall the individual cards be?
  • How frequently are we going to update the board? As soon as a task changes the status or is it acceptable for us to update it daily?

Kanban online course

Step 2: Discuss the processes and tasks

After aligning on those answers, you can move on to the next step and start talking about your processes and tasks. Ask everyone to think and write about their steps after a task appears.

  • Where do you collect information and the tasks?
  • Are there any waiting points? Any approvals? Any dependencies where you can see patterns?
  • Do you have team members who have different roles? 

Depending on the nature of your tasks, you may have different steps. It will be easy if you draw a flowchart. If you are a customer care team, your flowchart is probably similar to this one:

Step 3: Group the tasks and start to visualize the process

You may want to group some of the steps under a single column. One thing to keep in mind, avoid back and forth travel of the tickets. They need to always flow in one direction. If you’re going to visualize the status of each customer request, your board can look like this:

You can choose different colors for different people and use initials or avatars to indicate the task owner. It’s also another Kanban practice to limit the work in progress (WIP), to finish the tasks at a certain pace without creating a crowd in specific steps. Monitoring the times of the individual cards will help you to improve your cycle and lead times.

Recommended for you: Make the process fun with the Kanban Pizza Game

If all your team members are doing their tasks in a similar pattern, it’s easier to visualize this. But if you have different responsibilities within your team, recommend grouping them. For example, you may use different “swimlanes” for different roles or subteams. 

It’s also possible to create consecutive blocks, which is helpful if your tasks are more complex and need to be segmented. 

It’s a good practice to indicate blocked items, for example with a different card color or with an extra marker, as indicated below.

You don’t always have to use columns and rows. You can get creative and design your board as it will suit you best. Let’s say it’s essential for you to see the distribution of the workload for equally important, parallel tasks. In that case, a pie chart may represent your workflow better than a table would. 

Of course, you may combine them, too. If you can utilize physical boards or walls, it will give you more flexibility compared to a standard tool like Jira or Trello.

Download our free Miro templates to copy and modify for your needs.

Want to learn more about Kanban?

Kanban is a workflow management system that can help you visualize, streamline, and improve on your processes in the workplace. But there’s more to it than simply creating a board. Learn about it in our Kanban Foundations online course, or take a look at our webinars, which cover a broad range of topics on Agile, Scrum, Kanban, and just about anything else that relates to improving the workplace. There are also a number of agile42 training options, both in-person and remotely, which can transform the way you work: 

If you need some more help getting your team started in Kanban methods, check out our Kanban Start-Up Package, which includes dedicated in-person coaching as well as Kanban training. 

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Step up your Kanban game

With the growth of knowledge work, such as professional services, creative industries and the design of physical and software products, there is a growing interest in managing work using the Kanban method. The focus of Kanban is the delivery of services by an organization – one or more people collaborating to produce (usually intangible) work products. Even where there is a physical product from services, value resides less in the physical item itself, and more in its informational content (the software, in the most general sense).

The method is based on the concept of a kanban system – a delivery flow system that controls the amount of work in progress using visual signals. The challenge is moving from a so-called “Proto-Kanban”, where teams just put work items on a board, towards a true Kanban organization.

A number of agile42 coaches are Accredited Kanban Trainers (AKTs) from the Lean Kanban University and will deliver training classes in the upcoming weeks that put the participants on the path to be certified as Kanban Management Professionals (KMP). The KMP I class is the first step toward the credential showing you have had top quality Kanban training in order to launch and manage Kanban initiatives.

In this round of classes we meet our future KMPs in new locations, including our first ever certified Kanban training in Rome and in Toronto:

and more dates available soon. Students from KMP I classes can proceed to the KMP II class that delivers the KMP certification. At the moment we have one class scheduled, with more to be organized later in the year:

As always, check our full list of training classes for an opportunity near you.

Agile Business Day e novità certificazione Kanban

Sabato prossimo, 17 settembre, parteciperemo a Venezia alla prima edizione dell’Agile Business Day. La giornata purtroppo è già tutta esaurita ma abbiamo avuto notizia che buona parte del programma e in particolare le nostre presentazioni saranno disponibili in streaming live sul canale YouTube di Ca’ Foscari.

Parlerò alle 10:55 su Organizzazione e processi si possono cambiare in una notte. Le teste no. La maggior parte delle iniziative di cambiamento falliscono. Sono due le ragioni principali, trascurare il peso e l’inerzia della cultura aziendale, e l’illusione di poter raggiungere un punto di arrivo predefinito, lavorando solo sui processi e sull’organizzazione, magari copiando struttura e “pratiche” di altre aziende. Nella talk si esaminerà in breve il secondo punto ma il focus principale sarà sul primo.

Proseguendo su questo approccio, con l’occasione siamo molto felici di annunciare il primo corso Kanban in Italia certificato dalla Lean Kanban University (LKU). Soddisfa i requisiti KMP I (Kanban Management Professional I) e abilita a frequentare il corso KMP II al termine del quale è possibile ottenere la Certificazione di Kanban Management Professional.

Il corso KMP I si svolgerà a Milano il 10 e 11 novembre 2016. Come senior coach agile42 e unico Accredited Kanban Trainer nonché unico Kanban Coaching Professional italiano terrò in prima persona le due giornate di training, per un numero limitato di partecipanti. Il prezzo promozionale Early Bird, di € 600 + IVA per persona, è valido fino all’11 ottobre prossimo. Contattaci per ogni informazione aggiuntiva e per la partecipazione di gruppi di persone della stessa azienda (molto consigliato per le dinamiche di team).

Molte aziende si scontrano con problemi quali ritardi, piani sconvolti da attività non pianificate e emergenze continue, lentezza a reagire, persone sempre in sovraccarico, qualità non adeguata e clienti insoddisfatti. Vi suona familiare? Venite al corso e portate i vostri problemi e le vostre domande!

Workshop PMI Lean/Kanban Portfolio Management, Milano 9 maggio 2015

Sabato prossimo sarò ospite del PMI® Northern Italy Chapter per un workshop dal titolo “Dialoghi con… Gaetano Mazzanti: Lean/Kanban Portfolio Management”. La giornata si svolgerà a Milano sabato 9 maggio 2015 presso il SIAM in via Santa Marta 18 dalle 9 alle 17:30.

Obiettivo del workshop è introdurre i partecipanti ai principi e alle pratiche Lean/Kanban e alla loro applicazione al Portfolio Management. Si vedrà come l’approccio Lean/Kanban consente di affrontare in modo trasparente i problemi del bilanciamento e della distribuzione del carico di lavoro, della selezione dei progetti e iniziative da avviare, della massimizzazione del valore generato ottenendo maggiore rapidità e qualità. Saranno inoltre illustrati strumenti quali Lean Project Canvas e tecniche alternative di stima, monitoraggio e previsione.

Maggiori dettagli sono disponibili nella brochure da scaricare. Purtroppo la sala è già al completo, per maggiori informazioni potete contattare il sito dell’associazione all’indirizzo, sezione Eventi.

Organizzeremo al più presto altri eventi a Milano, contattateci.

All videos from Lean Kanban Southern Europe 2014

Lean Kanban Southern Europe 2014 has been a great success in Bologna on May 30th. A packed room of attendees that gathered in the Italian town to listen to the top presenters of the Lean and Kanban movement – and they also played Kanban Pizza Game with agile42 coaches!

agile42, as the organising sponsor of the event, has produced video recordings of all session that you can watch here (using a YouTube playlist) or in a specific page together with slides.

agile42 invites you to Lean Kanban Southern Europe 2014

We are happy to welcome the Lean Kanban global conference series to Italy! The Lean Kanban Southern Europe conference brings together professionals who realize the value of Lean thinking. This is the event for technology managers, business leaders, and change agents who want to build quality, predictable delivery, and a culture of continuous improvement into their organizations.

Part of the Lean Kanban global conference series, it’s been scheduled on a one-day format that will accommodate networking and participation from a diverse set of attendees.

The program is under development but already includes David J Anderson, Bjarte Bogsnes, Jabe Bloom, Joakim Sundén and many other speakers. This will also include the Lightning Talk presenters that are replying to our ongoing Call for Participation. Join us to share your experience on stage!

Looking forward to seeing you in Bologna on May 30!

Evento Lean Kanban in Italia il 30 maggio

Abbiamo il piacere di invitare al primo evento in Italia dedicato a Lean Kanban organizzato sotto l’egida della prestigiosa Lean-Kanban University. Lean Kanban Southern Europe 2014: Modern Managament Methods si terrà a Bologna il 30 maggio per una platea internazionale con la partecipazione dei migliori speaker internazionali che promuovono i valori Lean e il Kanban Method.

È la prima volta che questa conferenza si tiene in Italia ed è un’occasione unica per ascoltare e incontrare personaggi di rilievo mondiale. La conferenza è stata organizzata in una giornata singola, in una location facilmente raggiungibile, per consentire di partecipare e godere di personalità di discussione e networking con un gruppo limitato.

Tra gli speaker:

  • David J Anderson, punto di riferimento della comunità Lean Kanban e autore del libro Kanban
  • Bjarte Bogsnes, VP Performance Management Development in Statoil e Chairman della Beyond Budgeting Round Table Europe (parlerà proprio sul tema Beyond Budgeting)
  • Joakim Sundén, Agile Coach in Spotify, che ci parlerà della loro evoluzione Lean da piccola startup a azienda in crescita rapidissima

You Don’t Need to Change. Survival is Optional

The title refers to a quote attributed to W. Edwards Deming.

Today there’s general consensus – and a lot of noise – about the need for change. Still, organizations are having a hard time with change. Most change initiatives fail. Sometimes it’s just a matter of lack of will to change. Sometimes organizations just don’t even understand why or what they have to change.

Change is often believed to be magically reachable designing new processes on paper, possibly paying huge amounts of money to consultants.

The talk introduces the Kanban Method (not to be confused with the Kanban Tool) as an evolutionary approach to managing change and as a way to build a learning and adapting organization.


printed sticky notes glued on board

Kanban for Portfolio Management 
talk at OSS4B in Prato

On September 19, I gave a talk at the Open Source Software for Business conference in Prato.

The Conference has been very well organized and I had the honor to share the stage with the likes of Gene Kim (author of The Phoenix Project book), Dragos Dumitriu (the ‘hero’ manager described in David J Anderson’s Kanban book) and many others.

Slides for my talk Kanban for Portfolio Management are available here.