The Kanban Guide

What Is a Kanban Board?

A Kanban board is a tool for workflow visualization and one of the Kanban method’s key components.

Visualizing your workflow and tasks on a Kanban board helps you better understand your processes and gain an overview of your workload. With this new level of transparency, you will quickly identify problematic work stages, and by improving those, your team will soon work more efficiently. 

The Kanban Board Explained

The Kanban board went through a long journey to become what it is today. Kanban (English: signboard) started as a visual scheduling system, part of the Toyota production system.

A few decades later (2007), David Anderson further developed the Kanban method’s idea and introduced the Kanban board. Indeed, Darren Davis (Anderson’s colleague) was the one who suggested that the workflow should be visualized on a whiteboard. This is how the Kanban board was born, as we know it today, to become one of the most useful agile project management tools for knowledge work. Nowadays, its usage by Agile teams is so widespread that you can often hear people refer to Kanban boards as agile task boards.

Main Components of the Kanban board

Kanban boards use Card, Column, Swimlanes, and WIP Limits to enable teams to visualize and manage their workflows effectively. Let us introduce you to the main components more closely:

  • Kanban Cards – This is the visual representation of tasks. Each card contains information about the task and its status, such as deadline, assignee, description, etc.
  • Kanban Columns – Each column on the board represents a different stage of your workflow. The cards go through the workflow until their full completion.
  • Work-in-Progress Limits – They restrict the maximum amount of tasks in the different stages of the workflow. Limiting WIP allows you to finish work items faster by helping your team focus only on current tasks.
  • Kanban Swimlanes – These are horizontal lanes you can use to separate different activities, teams, classes of service, and more.

If you are new to the method, you may start with a basic Kanban board structure and split it into three primary sections that show different workflow stages.

For more detailed mapping of your process, you are at liberty to create as many subsections as you need to visualize your workflow with maximum precision. For example, a development team may have a Kanban task board that consists of multiple columns and swimlanes.

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