What is a Kanban board and how is it used? basics explained. (2023)

The Kanban board is a workflow visualization tool designed to help you bring clarity to your work process and increase efficiency by limiting the work in progress.

With this new transparency, you can quickly identify problematic work steps and by improving them, your team will soon work more efficiently.

In this guide, we'll explain what a Kanban board is, cover the basics, and clarify key details you need to understand, especially if you're a beginner.

The Kanban board explained

The Kanban board has come a long way to become what it is today. Let's start with a short story.

Kanban Board - Brief History

Kanban (English: signboard) started as a visual planning system, part of the Toyota production system. A few decades later(2007), David Anderson developed the idea of ​​the Kanban method further and introduced the Kanban board. In fact, Darren Davis (Anderson's colleague) was the one who suggested visualizing the workflow on a whiteboard. Thus was born the Kanban board as we know it today, to become one of the most usefulagile project managementTools for knowledge work. Today its use in agile teams is so widespread that Kanban boards are often referred to as agile task boards.

What are the functions and components of the Kanban board?

Kanban boards use cards, columns, swimlanes, and WIP limits to allow teams to effectively visualize and manage their workflows. Let us introduce you to the main components:What is a Kanban board and how is it used? basics explained. (1)

Kanban board components

Kanban cards– This is the visual representation of tasks. Each card contains information about the task and its status, such as: B. Deadline, person responsible, description, etc.

Kanban columns- Each column on the board represents a different stage of your workflow. The cards go through the workflow to their full completion.

Work-in-Progress-Limits– They limit the maximum number of tasks in the different stages of the workflow. By limiting WIP, you can complete work items faster by helping your team focus only on current tasks.

(Video) What is Kanban? - Agile Coach (2019)

Kanban-Swimlanes- These are horizontal lanes that you can use to separate different activities, teams, classes of service and more.

commitment point– A commitment marks a point in the work process where a work item is ready to be dragged into the system.

place of delivery– The point in the workflow at which work items are considered completed.

Types of Kanban Boards

There are two types of Kanban boards - physical and digital boards.

A physical Kanban boardis the most basic form of a Kanban board, where teams use sticky notes (representing tasks) and a whiteboard (corkboard). Work stages are represented as columns and sticky notes are moved from one stage to the next.

A digital Kanban boardis a software solution that makes it much more accessible than its physical counterparts. These types of boards can give you visibility into work progress from virtually anywhere while facilitating team collaboration. Some digital solutions are very flexible, allowing managers to track multiple workflows and organize their work into different categories. There is enough ofExamples of Kanban boardsapplied successfully across industries and in teams with different backgrounds.

What are the advantages of Kanban boards?

When you implement Kanban, you can start small and gradually build sustainable, long-term improvements in your processes, enabling higher levels of productivity, reduced stress and improved quality, among other things.

  • Improved visibility
  • Increased Productivity
  • Greater flexibility
  • Verbesserter Team Focus
  • Less waste
  • Better collaboration
  • Improved predictability
  • Alignment with corporate values

How do I use a Kanban board?

When building your Kanban board, start with a simple structure, gradually expand your board and turn it into a workflow management system by following these seven steps:

1. Visualize your workflow on the Kanban board

Map all stages of your work process with the Kanban board. Looking at the board, you should be able to see how the work is being done.Start with a basic Kanban board structureand break it down into a few main sections that show different work steps.What is a Kanban board and how is it used? basics explained. (2)

Start with a basic Kanban board structure

(Video) Kanban 101 - What is Kanban?

2. Identify workflow bottlenecks on the Kanban board

The Kanban board is a perfect tool to visualize potential problems in your process. The logic is simple: if you see a column where tasks are arriving faster than they are going, the work is piling up and the problem becomes visible to the entire team. This can be caused by a temporary problem or a bottleneck in your process.

We advise you to do soMap your workflow as accurately as possiblehaving a clear picture of where the problem lies.

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What is a Kanban board and how is it used? basics explained. (3)

For example, on a simple Kanban board with only one "In Progress" section and many cards awaiting activity, it will be difficult to determine why the work is getting stuck and how you can mitigate the situation.

(Video) Intro to Kanban in Under 5 Minutes (What is Kanban, Learn Kanban)

Conversely, the detailed mapping of your workflow with special columns for all work steps allows you to see at a glance where improvements can be made.

What is a Kanban board and how is it used? basics explained. (4)Identify process bottlenecks on a Kanban board

Once you spot a problematic gap/bottleneck, act quickly to fix it and prevent it from happening again. The easiest way is to cap the work in progress earlier in the process. By doing this, you give the people who "own" that stage more time to defuse the bottleneck. Another option might be to redistribute the team's efforts to meet the new requirements. Kanban is designed to offer maximum flexibility, so you stay in the driver's seat of all important decisions.

3. Use the Kanban board to limit work in progress and focus

The Kanban board is a great way to keep your team from multitasking through an applicationWIP Limitsaccording to your capacity. You can either limit the total number of tasks that can run simultaneously on your board, or set individual limits for each phase of your workflow.

What is a Kanban board and how is it used? basics explained. (5)Apply WIP (work-in-progress) limits on a Kanban board

If you want to increase the rate at which you provide value to your customers, you should do soKeep each team focused on finishing work rather than starting a new one.

That way, they stop starting new work and focus on completing tasks that are already in progress. Knowing that everyone can see what everyone is doing is a great motivator to constantly strive for better performance as well.

4. Use the Kanban dashboard to save time wasted on unnecessary meetings

A major advantage of implementing Kanban boards is that you save a lot of time on meetings, progress reports and many other unnecessary interruptions.

Use the Kanban board as a dedicated information repository.It will spread knowledge about who is doing what and when. The Kanban board keeps you and everyone on the team updated on the progress of tasks. That way, you don't have to schedule meetings as often to get progress updates.

In addition, the Kanban board allows you to forget about the long books of progress reports that take forever to create and are already out of date by the time they are presented to stakeholders.

(Video) Kanban Tutorial: How to Setup a Kanban Board | Project Management | Productivity Tools | Ed Tchoi

5. Visualize work blockers on your Kanban board

The Kanban board makes it possibleVisualize issues that are preventing your team from completing a specific task. On a typical physical board, blockers are usually indicated with red magnets (or pins if you're using a bulletin board).

What is a Kanban board and how is it used? basics explained. (6)Use visual blockers on a Kanban board

Digital Kanban Softwarehas more advanced ways to visualize blockers (e.g. stop signs on locked maps). If something is preventing your team from continuing work on a task, they can mark it as blocked and start working on another task without exceeding WIP limits.

6. Automate work processes on your Agile Kanban Board

Automating workflows is a great way to build a mature workflow management system. Oftentimes, teams need to complete repetitive tasks, quickly notify their colleagues of upcoming changes, remind deadlines of deadlines, and smoothly hand off work to one another. All of these can take a lot of time, create waste and chaos in the system if you handle them manually.

This is why modern Kanban boards allow you to do thisApply automation rules to your tasks and optimize their flow within the system. They usually take the form of "if-then-that" rules that allow you to trigger predefined actions on your Kanban board when something else happens.

What is a Kanban board and how is it used? basics explained. (7)Apply automation to a Kanban board

This allows you to automate repetitive processes where possible, reduce wasteful activities, and make your workflow management system more efficient.

7. Gather key workflow metrics and improve

Modern digital kanban boards can automatically collect information about the cycle time, lead time, and other key performance indicators of your tasks. This will help youMake data-driven decisions about any changes to your processand save a lot of time that you would otherwise waste collecting metrics manually.

For example, in Kanbanize you can use multiple charts in your Kanban board where you can measure your workflow data and continuously optimize task and project completion.

What is a Kanban board and how is it used? basics explained. (8)Use Lean/Agile metrics and charts

(Video) What is a Kanban Board? - Agile Coach (2019)

In addition, knowing how to use a Kanban board will help youprioritize tasksin a much better way. By visualizing everything in one place, the entire team is always on the same track.

in summary

The Kanban board is a tool for mapping and visualizing your workflow and is one of the key components of the Kanban method. Kanban boards help you to:

  • Visualize bottlenecks and workflow weaknesses
  • Concentrate on the current work
  • Eliminate the need for fundamental status update meetings


What is Kanban board and how is it being used? ›

A kanban board is an agile project management tool designed to help visualize work, limit work-in-progress, and maximize efficiency (or flow). It can help both agile and DevOps teams establish order in their daily work.

What is Kanban in simple terms? ›

Kanban is a visual system used to manage and keep track of work as it moves through a process. The word kanban is Japanese and roughly translated means “card you can see.”

What is a Kanban board quizlet? ›

A Kanban board helps the team realize how they are working and what has to be done next. Kanban Cards. Each card on the Kanban board is referred to as a Kanban card. Kanban cards are used to show progress through an iteration.

What is the Kanban visual board briefly explain? ›

The Kanban board is a tool for workflow visualization, designed to help you bring clarity to your work process and enhance efficiency by limiting work in progress. With this new level of transparency, you will quickly identify problematic work stages, and by improving those, your team will soon work more efficiently.

What is Kanban when is it useful? ›

Kanban is a method applied across all fields of work to help teams drive down costs and become more efficient by visualizing and improving workflows. Kanban gives you the flexibility to build sustainable competitive advantage and empower your team to accomplish more, faster.

What are the basic principles that Kanban is based on? ›

Kanban is based on a pull rather than a push system. This means that team members only start work when they have capacity, rather than work being pushed to them with the potential of getting piled up.

What are the key goals of Kanban? ›

The goal of Kanban is to move every bit of work efficiently from beginning to end with as little waste and lag as possible. This requires limiting the amount of work in the pipeline to what can reasonably be managed at a given time.

What is a typical characteristic of a Kanban board? ›

Things Happen Faster Without Much Stress

Another one of the main characteristics of Kanban is that things seem to happen faster without much stress. By default, the method focuses on improving the way that your tasks go through your system which is known as flow efficiency.

Why is it called Kanban? ›

What Is Kanban? Kanban is an inventory control system used in just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing. It was developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, and takes its name from the colored cards that track production and order new shipments of parts or materials as they run out.

What is the purpose of a Kanban system quizlet? ›

it is used to signal production at the previous work station. It is used to alert that inventory is needed. What is a Material Kanban?

What is Kanban What are the two types of Kanban? ›

They often take two forms: internal or interprocess kanban (for withdrawal from an internal process) and supplier kanban (for withdrawal from an external supplier). In their original application around Toyota City, cards commonly were used for both purposes.

What are the 6 rules of Kanban? ›

Toyota has six rules for the effective application of Kanban: 1) Never pass on defective products; 2) Take only what is needed; 3) Produce the exact quantity required; 4) Level the production; 5) Fine-tune production; and 6) Stabilise and rationalise the process.

How do you structure a Kanban board? ›

The basic structure of the Kanban board online has three columns: to-do, in-progress, and done. Each column represents the stage of development from the beginning when ideas are created, to the work in progress, and then finally, to when the work has been completed.

How is Kanban used in everyday life? ›

Some Kanban examples in daily life are: Students who need to optimize their time to handle assignments. Workshops that have to track work progress. Anyone at home who needs to manage and organize tasks.

How could you use Kanban in your daily life? ›

Organize Your Life with Kanban
  1. Create your daily to-do list. ...
  2. Note down your ideas. ...
  3. Create a weekly plan to organize your life. ...
  4. Manage multiple projects at once. ...
  5. Work with a remote team. ...
  6. Plan a vacation. ...
  7. Plan an event. ...
  8. Create a family board.

What is the most important part of Kanban? ›

The Kanban board itself represents the actual state of your workflow with all its risks and specifications. The first and most important thing for you is understanding what it takes to get an item from a request to a deliverable product.

What are the three principles of Kanban? ›

Kanban change management suggests three main principles: Start with what you do now. Gain agreement to pursue improvement through evolutionary change. Encourage acts of leadership at all levels.

What are the steps in Kanban process? ›

There are five main steps to implementing a Kanban system:
  1. Visualize your current workflow.
  2. Apply Work-in-Process (WIP) limits.
  3. Make policies explicit.
  4. Manage and measure flow.
  5. Optimize iteratively with data.

What is the core concept of Kanban? ›

The six core practices of Kanban are to visualize the flow of work, limit work in progress, manage flow, make process policies explicit, implement feedback loops, and improve collaboratively.

Which tool is used for Kanban? ›

Trello remains the go-to Kanban tool for many business teams and individuals because of its simplicity. Trello is strictly Kanban, organized by boards that team members can use to access and update tasks and store documents.

What is the first rule of Kanban? ›

Rule #1: keep it simple

Use simple plain language without abbreviations and “team jargon“ when you define tasks. This will make the Kanban Board to a universal tool for reports and communication across across teams and hierarchy levels.

What are the basic columns in a Kanban board? ›

The typical Kanban board has three columns: To Do, Doing, and Done and in Kanbanize the columns are as follows: Requested, In Progress, and Done. They divide the Kanban board vertically, and each of them represents a different stage of a workflow.

How are Kanban cards used? ›

Kanban cards make it easy to keep track of lead time, which is the time it takes for a work item to go from start to finish. Kanban cards, together with a kanban board, can help teams identify bottlenecks in their workflow and streamline their process.


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