Tag Archive for: kanban

Principles and Practices of Kanban

In our fast-moving world, customers expect fast results and priorities are constantly changing. Therefore, companies must be able to respond and adapt quickly.

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, my favorite piece of cake inspired me to tell the story of a confectionery shop that was urged to change their product portfolio due to market changes. As I use this story very often to introduce Kanban principles and practices in training and coaching sessions, I also want to share it here.

Grab a piece of cake and read how Kanban principles and practices can be applied to initiate and manage change effectively.

What is Kanban?

The inventor of the Kanban method, David J. Anderson, was on holiday in Japan in spring 2005. Spring is the time of cherry blossom, so he went to see the cherry blossoms in the gardens of the Imperial Palace. Many other people wanted to do the same and there were long queues.

To manage the flow of the crowds, each visitor was given a ticket. If there were no more tickets, admission was paused until another visitor had left the garden. Access to a scarce resource – the garden – was managed by limiting the capacity – the tickets. The presence or absence of a card was the signal whether there was capacity or not. This was a kanban system. The Japanese word “kanban” means “visible signal”.

By using Kanban, a company develops the capability to respond better and faster to changing customer needs and expectations.

We can apply Kanban everywhere in a company where we provide a service and in any situation where people and processes are involved. Kanban is neither a methodology nor a framework. In contrast to Scrum, it does not prescribe events, workflows, roles or responsibilities. Rather, it is a method that is applied to an existing way of working, with the purpose of making that way of working more effective. With that, it is much more than just a board full of sticky notes.

Recommended for you: Kanban Foundations online short course

Why you benefit from using Kanban

Where to apply Kanban

The Kanban method takes inspiration from lean manufacturing in many aspects and was designed for knowledge work. Kanban is not limited to specific industries, products or services and also does not require specific roles, events or practices.

Using Kanban for change management

A friend of mine works for a confectionary shop that sells cakes and a few other bakery goods. She is an expert in producing and decorating cakes for weddings and other celebrations. The shop is a small family-owned business with a stable number of b2b and b2c customers who used to order cakes regularly.

When COVID-19 hit, the market environment changed drastically: The customers came less frequently and the bakery store’s hygiene measures needed to be adapted in order to meet new requirements. This affected the production. Also, the customers demanded more bakery goods instead of cakes. Bread had been sold out several weeks in a row and the bakery realized that they needed to change their product portfolio. To address the change, they took several actions.

When I first heard about their change, I was preparing for a Kanban workshop, looking for an example of how to apply Kanban principles and practices. Because I like cake and think most of their measures relate perfectly to Kanban, a cake-inspired version of the Kanban principles and practices follows:

The six principles of Kanban

Start with what you do now

The team of the confectionery shop was already experienced with baking one type of bread. They used their existing knowledge and capabilities to change their product portfolio from cakes to bread: They simply took their bread recipe and produced more bread of that type. They built on top of what they already did instead of planning a big change, which allowed them to start on the same day and learn fast.

When uncertainty is high, the first step of a change is not always clear. We counter this by building on what is already there.

The first principle of Kanban says: Start with what you are already doing.

Pursue evolutionary change

As the confectionery shop did not want to do a big bang change, they analyzed what they could add to the basic recipe in order to further improve in small steps. So they decided to add some special grains and seeds to their bread, in order to create variations. The customers liked it and some of them also provided feedback on the new products. Some preferred smaller sized breads, for example.

With that, they approached new things in many small steps and learned from their experiences. This is easier to implement than introducing big changes overnight – only to realize at the end that another way would have been better.

The second Kanban principle says: Agree to pursue evolutionary change.

Encourage leadership at all levels

The change in their product portfolio triggered some adaptations in how the team of the confectionery shop works together during the day and how they manage their work. Because team members know best what needs to be changed in production, they encouraged everyone to bring in their ideas and knowledge. Together they owned the process of inspecting and adapting continuously. This led to several actions like transforming their café area into a second production room and adjusting their worktimes.

Change happens when it is initiated and accompanied by someone. When we start with what we are already doing and manage change in many small steps, this does not only concern leadership roles in the organization. Often small or supposedly insignificant observations and suggestions for improvement come from people with no formal leadership roles. After all, through their daily operational work, they know very well what changes can make an impact.

The third Kanban principle relates to that: Encourage leadership at all levels.

Understand customers’ needs

The team used statistics to learn and understand what their customers needed and adjusted to those. They found out that they didn’t sell any cake but three types of bread instead. They also noticed that on Mondays there were fewer customers than on Fridays. Based on this data, they managed their purchasing of ingredients accordingly and were able to reduce waste.

Clients judge services on the basis of various criteria. If a team fulfills them, this leads to satisfaction. So if a team understands their customers better, they can think about their work system from the customers’ point of view and focus on the customers’ needs.

This is what the fourth Kanban principle addresses: Understand the needs and expectations of customers and focus on them.

Manage the work, not the people

Working times and workflow steps changed as the business offered different products and more variation. It became very important to prioritize work and ensure that the system of work is effective rather than ensuring that all team members were utilized.

The team knew best what they needed to do to manage and organize bread production, so the owner of the shop let them self-organize around that work. The shop owner established a pull system and created an environment where people felt safe and motivated to organize themselves and produce value (bread).

The fifth Kanban principle says: Manage the work and let people organize themselves around the work.

Control service delivery through policies

With offering more variations and other types of products, the team agreed on how “type 1” bread should look like to meet their quality standards. They also defined what needed to be done in each workflow step.

Offering new types of bread required change. They had to continuously develop their offering  and rules for collaboration. Continuous inspection and adaptation was needed to ensure sustainable results.

The sixth principle says: Control service delivery through policies.

Want to deepen your knowledge? Try Kanban System Design (KMP I) Training

Why Kanban supports change management

When change is needed, Kanban’s first three principles provide guidance on how to manage  change.

Kanban’s first principle relates to the introduction of change. It says: Start with what you are already doing. Approaching new things and learning from the experiences with them is related to an evolutionary approach that is covered by the second principle: pursue evolutionary change. The third principle relates to promoting responsible action in every individual (encourage leadership at all levels).

This is why the first three principles are also called change management principles. The remaining three principles are focused on service delivery and are therefore called service delivery principles.

Kanban core practices

Make work visible

The team followed specific practices that helped them to produce good results. For example, they supported the purchasing and production by visualizing the number of orders from previous days so that everybody was aware of the development and could adjust accordingly. They also reorganized the workspace in a way that allowed them to see what others were doing, which led to better alignment during production and less bottlenecks.

If, for example, too much dough was prepared but not processed further, they were now able to see that the dough was piling up. Waste was also noticeable: Dropped toppings on the floor couldn’t be processed further and also posed the risk of an accident if someone slipped on them.

These visible signs were discussed and the team initiated measures for optimization. Visualizing work and the flow of work allows us to absorb and process a lot of information in a short time. Because everyone involved has the same picture, visualization supports collaboration and helps make better decisions. Visual signals show us when we need to act or where problems occur.

In contrast to the construction of physical products, the inventory is not visible in knowledge work. It’s more difficult to recognize queues or blocked work. A Kanban board can make work visible in this case.

The columns represent the flow of work, from the first step to the delivery of customer value. The work flows through the system and is visualized by means of maps. This allows us to see at a glance where any bottlenecks and overloads occur. Colors and shapes can also be used to additionally visualize different states such as blocked or very urgent work.

Limit work in progress

The confectionery shop only had three ovens, which was enough for producing cakes but not enough for the demand of bread. They needed to limit the work in progress of bread to avoid long waiting times, which would have resulted in quality issues and waste.

Work in progress refers to the number of tasks that are in progress at any given time. Kanban provides an effective work system with focus on the flow of work rather than on the utilization of employees. When resources are fully utilized, there is no idle time in the system and the result is poor flow, just like rush hour traffic on the highway.

In knowledge work, we also encounter the problem of context switching, which can drastically reduce effectiveness. Perhaps you know this: you are editing a text document and a colleague calls. You are pulled out of your thoughts and need a moment after the phone call until you can continue where you left off.

In Kanban, we therefore limit parallel work in order to balance the workload and ensure an even flow of work.

Manage the flow of work

The team was continuously producing bread as they noticed that much time and effort was needed during production – more than they had assumed. Therefore, they decided to measure the time needed for each step in production. After a few weeks, the numbers indicated a bottleneck in transporting the unfinished loaves to the ovens. By reducing transport times and adapting the way of working in the team a bit, they enabled an even flow of work that also had positive effects on an even utilization of the ovens.

The goal of managing the flow of work is to get the job done as smoothly and predictably as possible while maintaining a steady pace. It aims to create value for customers quickly and sustainably.

Limiting parallel work is one of the most important measures in Kanban that helps us to ensure a smooth and predictable flow. To achieve this, we need to monitor and measure the flow of work. This provides us with data that can be used for expectation management, forecasting and improvement.

Make policies explicit

The team made many decisions about the organization of work and how work was done. This referred, for example, to how new work – i.e. orders from customers – entered the system. The definition of when a task is completed and another colleague takes over was clear to everyone involved. Other examples of explicit agreements related to limiting parallel work, guidelines for dealing with tasks of different priority or meeting times.

Everyone involved agreed on policies, including clients, stakeholders and colleagues responsible for the work. In order to keep track of the agreements, the team made them visible and accessible. For example, they printed a checklist that made explicit how to leave the workplace at the end of the day.

A team agreement is a good way to introduce such guidelines at team level. As with all other building blocks of the system, policies need to be reviewed and adapted regularly. Guidelines are not work instructions that describe how work should be done in detail. Setting explicit rules is meant to enable self-organization.

Implement feedback loops

The change in the confectionery shop’s work required regular conversations. To ensure a constant cycle of inspection and adaptation, they provided feedback regularly. They ritualized it by having a short conversation every week for one hour where they discussed numbers, processes, communication and how to improve.

Feedback loops are necessary for coordinated delivery, to improve service delivery and prevent a negative impact on customer satisfaction. The conversations can include sharing relevant information, talking about observations and possible adjustments or planning the strategy for the next quarter.

Kanban refers to feedback loops in the form of meetings as cadences. Feedback loops increase the organization’s ability to learn because they provide a framework for regular inspection and adaptation. Feedback loops can also help to conduct small-scale experiments and learn from them through regular reflection.

Improve collaboratively, evolve experimentally

In the first weekly meeting, the team decided to experiment with a new type of special bread as one team member had some experience with it from their previous job. They got together to plan how they were going to try the new recipe. Then, they  offered the product for two weeks to learn how customers responded to it and what they needed to change in production.

The last of the six Kanban practices takes us back to the principles: “Start with what you are already doing” and “Agree to pursue evolutionary change”. Kanban is a method for continuous improvement that we do collaboratively. A diverse team usually comes up with better solutions than a single person. This is partly because different perspectives are taken into account and advantages and disadvantages are recognized earlier.


As a method that is applied to an existing way of working, Kanban embraces change by fostering evolution and learning in small steps while focusing on customers’ needs. With that, Kanban can be used for managing change in many contexts.

By the way, the confectionary shop team successfully transformed their product portfolio and improved their way of working significantly. They still inspect and adapt every day and currently offer 50% cakes and 50% bakery goods.

Kanban certifications

If you want to learn more about Kanban, agile42 offers an array of Kanban certifications. Learn the basics in our online Kanban course, or dive a little deeper with Kanban System Design (KMP I) certification. If you already have the basics down and want to take your expertise to the next level, Kanban Systems Improvement (KMP II) is for you.

Common Agile Frameworks and Methods

During the last few decades, several approaches to product development and service delivery have emerged. The level of complexity of products and services is ever-increasing which is why many people wonder which framework or method to choose. Perhaps you are also wondering which framework or method will work best for your team. Below we summarize the key elements of four main agile frameworks and methods, some differences between them, and how they can complement one another.


Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps teams and organizations deliver value incrementally.

The Scrum framework consists of the Scrum team with its three accountabilities, five Scrum events, and three artifacts. Each component serves a specific purpose and is important for Scrum’s successful adoption.

The easiest way to understand Scrum is to read the Scrum Guide. There are three main things that you should realize:

  • As an agile framework, Scrum has rigid boundaries. These are the specific team accountabilities, events and artifacts. Agile frameworks are intentionally incomplete and do not specify all the steps required to build and deliver a product or service. This provides the flexibility and freedom to apply the framework to various domains.
  • Scrum attaches particular importance to the cross-functional Scrum team and the accountabilities defined for the Developers, Scrum Master and Product Owner. Said accountabilities include maximizing customer value, improving team effectiveness and increasing product quality, among others.
  • Another key element of Scrum is the continuous improvement of the product, the team, its practices, and the working environment. This improvement typically happens but is not limited to regular sprint retrospectives. Retrospectives are arguably the most important event within the Scrum framework and should never be neglected.

Contrary to popular belief, Scrum is not an approach to estimate and plan what work will be completed in a given time period. Scrum allows teams to create value for their customers and users by letting them focus on one sprint goal at a time, while continuously getting better.

Recommended online course: Scrum Foundations

Extreme Programming (XP)

Nowadays, XP is not used as much as it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, XP, its creator Kent Beck and other people like Ron Jeffries played a crucial role in the development of agile thinking and agile approaches. Therefore we would like to include XP in this list as well.

As the name suggests, Extreme Programming has its roots in software development. The core idea of XP is to develop software iteratively and incrementally while focussing on users’ needs. As such, it is an agile framework that is comparable to Scrum.

While there are many similarities between XP and Scrum, there are also subtle differences. For instance:

  • Iterations in XP tend to be shorter compared to sprints in Scrum.
  • Scrum teams typically avoid changes to their sprint plans while XP teams are more open to change.
  • The work of an XP team is prioritized by the customer while the work of a Scrum team is prioritized by their Product Owner.

The most important and noticeable difference, however, is that XP explicitly suggests development practices such as the following:

  • User stories
  • Spikes
  • Pair programming
  • Test-driven development
  • Refactoring
  • Continuous integration

These development practices are still being embraced by many software development teams, regardless which agile framework or method they adopt.

Recommended training: Certified Scrum Developer (CSD)


The Kanban method helps organizations, teams and individuals manage their professional services, and enables them to respond better and faster to their customers’ needs and expectations.

The principles and practices of the Kanban method are described in the official Kanban Guide. Here are three important things to understand about Kanban:

  • Kanban is neither a methodology nor a framework. It does not prescribe events, workflows, roles or responsibilities. Rather, it is a method that is applied to an existing way of working, with the purpose of making that way of working more effective.
  • The myth around Kanban only being suitable for teams that are handling interrupt-driven, ad-hoc workload is unfounded. The Kanban method, with its change management and service delivery principles and its six core practices, can be applied to any process or system.
  • In many aspects, Kanban takes inspiration from lean manufacturing.

In his book “Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business”, the creator of the Kanban method David J. Anderson, tells the story of his trip to Tokyo, in spring 2005. Spring is the cherry blossom season in Japan and he wanted to see the beautiful cherry trees at the Imperial Palace Gardens. There he realized they were using a kanban system to control how many people could visit the garden during peak times of the day. This kanban system, as used in lean manufacturing, inspired the Kanban method for knowledge work.

Related reading: How to create a Kanban board

In knowledge work, a kanban system allows work to flow by limiting work in progress and establishing a pull system. With the Kanban method, you visualize invisible work and how it moves through a workflow. This will help operate your business effectively, as well as understand and manage risks in delivering services to your customers. The Kanban method enables continuous improvement in an evolutionary way.

Because Kanban is almost universally applicable, many Scrum or XP teams use Kanban to improve their way of working, for instance by visualizing their work or optimizing their delivery. Some people call this a hybrid approach and give it a specific name such as “Scrumban”.

Recommended online course: Kanban Foundations

Design Thinking

Even though Design Thinking is not really considered an agile framework or method, its principles and practices are popular among agile teams and organizations and complement their toolbox. For instance, the persona is a widely used tool.

Design Thinking emerged much earlier than Scrum, XP or Kanban as it is based on the way designers approach new projects or products in general. Design Thinking has been developed by a number of different organizations (e.g. IDEO, HPI, Dark Horse) that follow slightly different approaches and theories. However, together they define what Design Thinking is.

Here are some important facts about Design Thinking:

  • Design Thinking fosters creativity by utilizing a large toolbox of practices, tools and techniques.
  • The core idea of Design Thinking is to understand the environment and the customer’s problem before building a solution. Design Thinking is based on continuous divergence and convergence.
  • Teams applying Design Thinking try to validate an idea for a solution by testing prototypes and iterating multiple times.

A major breakthrough was Jake Knapp’s book Sprint. Design sprints provide a structure that allows teams to prepare themselves for a challenge and solve it by going through all phases of Design Thinking within five days.

Recommended online course: Design Thinking Foundations

Which Agile Framework or Method Should You Use?

We often see teams asking themselves whether they should use one framework, method, approach or another in order to deliver outstanding value to their customers.

The reality is that you shouldn’t choose between Scrum, Kanban, XP, Design Thinking or others; rather, you should discover which practices work best for your team and tweak the system of work accordingly. By tweaking, we mean combining those elements that work best for your team in order to plan, track and manage your work more efficiently so that you satisfy your customers’ needs better and faster.

Ask yourself how work arrives at your team, and how often that work and the information around it changes. The answers could guide you in choosing a paradigm that suits you. You might find that a timeboxed mechanism or limiting your work in progress will help. Can you plan your work and commit to it for one or two weeks?

Scrum, Kanban, XP and Design Thinking aren’t mutually exclusive and complement each other when combined. The bigger challenge that lies ahead for teams is the journey of discovering which practices and structures work best for them in satisfying their customers’ needs in a sustainable and ever-growing way.

Every team, every product and every customer is different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. By keeping an eye on what agility might offer beyond the methods, frameworks or tools you are already using, by trying out new things and hence continuously inspecting and adapting your system of work, you will eventually find what fulfills your team’s and customers’ needs best.

We hope this blog post made you curious about the idea of an agile mix-and-match approach and encourage you to find the best practices for your team right away:

  • Do you like the idea of having a Scrum Master? Try it out!
  • Pair programming sounds interesting? Go for it!
  • The concept of work in progress limits convinces you? Implement them!
  • Design sprints sound exciting? Just do it!

Want to Learn More About These Agile Frameworks and Methods?

agile42 offers online courses including Design Thinking Foundations, Scrum Foundations, and Kanban Foundations. We also offer Kanban System Design (KMP I) and Kanban Systems Improvement (KMP II) certifications, as well as coaching, mentoring, and consulting services. Reach out to us if you want to learn more.

How to Kanban Your Christmas

How to Survive the Festive Season with Kanban

It’s December, and ‘tis the season to be festive, whether you celebrate Christmas or just take some time off to spend with family, friends and loved ones. However you choose to spend your festive season, sometimes it comes with a little extra stress: bigger groups of people, crowded shopping centres, tight work deadlines, financial pressure, and family obligations can make December one of the most stressful months of the year. You might think we’re kidding, but handling this challenge with a more agile mindset can help smooth things over. Here are 10 ways to use Kanban to make your Christmas and festive season easier. 

Organise your Christmas gifts 

If you and your family and friends give gifts over the festive season, this can start to feel like an expensive, complicated task - and you want to make sure you don’t leave anyone important off your list! A simple Kanban board is a great way to streamline this task. Create a list of people you need to get a gift for on a Kanban board, with columns for each step. Move them along the board as you decide what to buy, purchase the gifts, and wrap them. 

 Christmas gift Kanban Board.

Reduce waste 

One of the key principles behind Kanban is to reduce waste. In its original context, this meant using visual signals to indicate customer demand, and let the production floor know what supplies were needed. But waste can be thought of as anything that does not add value to your final product or goal. In the context of Christmas, this could mean using Kanban for shopping to ensure you only buy the necessary supplies, rather than doubling up due to a lack of clear communication. It also reduces the mental load on those who are usually overburdened at Christmas time (which is arguably the best gift you could give!) Kanban boards give you a clear, visual, centralised idea of everything that needs to be bought, done, or planned. This makes it easy for any member of the household to pick up a task and complete it without having to wait for instruction from someone else. 

Be more flexible 

In Kanban, all the information about a project - like Christmas dinner, gift shopping, planning a trip, or whatever else you might be doing during the festive season - is easily available, but also easy to reshuffle. Sudden changes can be highly stressful when you’re at capacity in terms of mental load. For instance, if your distant aunt invites herself over for Christmas at the last minute, you might feel overwhlemed and unsure where to begin changing arrangements. With a Kanban Christmas project in place, you can simply take a look and adjust the tasks that might be affected, without having to do all the math in your head. 

Collaborate on cooking 

A big feast - or feasts - forms a big part of the December vibe for many people. But anyone who’s ever tried to take the lead on a Christmas or New Year’s Eve dinner party knows that it’s not as simple as you’d think. Using a Kanban board, you’re able to allocate tasks and keep everything on a shared record, so that everyone is able to help where they can, and nothing slips through the cracks. Share the load and you’ll find everyone has a much better time! 

Christmas dinner family

Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Share tasks so nobody feels overloaded

Kanban makes it really easy to visualise the responsibilities and workload involved. This makes it really easy to see who is available to help out, and who might have too much to handle by themselves. There are few things as healthy for your relationships as allowing everyone to take ownership of what you do together, be accountable for what they’re bringing to the table, and share the load so that there’s nobody who feels overloaded. 

Be transparent

Kanban is about more than an efficient and dynamic to-do list. It’s about transparency, and allowing everyone involved in a project to have full access to all the moving parts. The clear advantage here, both in the workplace and in the home, is that it places everyone in equal standing and helps to remove points of tension that come about through lack of communication. Kanban also emphasizes the importance of explicit policies: there should be clear common goals with rules of engagement. When everyone agrees that what they’re doing is useful and helps contribute towards a goal, they’re a lot more enthusiastic to be involved. 

Plan a trip

Many people love to take a trip during the December holidays, whether it’s a quest to see snow, a beach vacation to escape the cold weather, or a little road trip to your home town. You can plot your itinerary on a Kanban board, and make lists of everything you need to get done beforehand - from travel documents and currency exchange to packing and bookings. It’s also a great way to split the load: you can assign tasks to your fellow travellers and keep a record of everything, to make sure the trip comes off without a hitch.  

December Road Trip

Photo by Jessie Crettenden from Pexels

Plan next year’s goals 

A Kanban board is a really fun way to set out your personal goals for the next year. You can add pictures, colours, and motivational quotes if you want to, or even deadlines, depending how seriously you take your goals and what tools you’re using. 

Make the kids’ tasks fun and visual

If you have kids, getting them to do chores during their school break can be a challenge. Add some colourful sticky notes, pictures, and break things down into simple, easy-to-complete parts, and kids can get really enthusiastic about helping out. You can also tie in a reward system to help keep things on track. Since the system is visual, it can also help neurodivergent kids out a lot, and they’ll easily understand what’s expected of them. 

Encourage self-organisation and ownership

One of the greatest parts of Agile frameworks, and Kanban specifically, is that it encourages self-organisation and ownership. Just like healthy leadership manages flow, not people, a healthy family knows what needs to be done and is able to take responsibility for tasks of their own accord, without having to be controlled. 

Curious about Kanban? Try our online Kanban Foundations course, designed to help you understand the foundational practices and principles of Kanban.

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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