agile > chapter 1 the agile approach > 18 designing kanban boards

Designing Kanban Boards

The principles behind designing kanban boards are:

Key information on a kanban board

  1. status - the current column a task is in should be obvious; avoid vague columns like "To-do", "Doing" and "Done"
  2. partial state - we divide each column into two (2) sub-columns "Working" and "Complete" to account for tasks which have been completed for a certain phase/column but we have not pushed them into the next phase/column
  3. personnel - the board indicates who is doing what
  4. tasks for each requirement - a requirement is "done" (complete) when all of the tasks (cards) under it are on the rightmost column
  5. dependencies between requirements - wool threads can be used to indicate which panels are dependent on others to be completed first; the outline colour of the panels of digital boards can be used to show dependencies; the simplest way is to place the sections from top to bottom according to importance (e.g. writing a lab manual for a science lab should be above conducting the lab with your students)
  6. dependencies between tasks - within each requirement (section of the board) we can place the more important tasks (cards) first
  7. errors/delays - we place an error section on the board for tasks where errors are encountered for example if it is discovered that the teammate assigned to a task lacks the knowledge to complete it or where the task might have to be divided into smaller subtasks for completion by other teammates
  8. dependencies with third parties - we use a special color for tasks that depend on personnel and processes outside of our team; the facilitator works to resolve these external dependencies and unblock the work
  9. estimated time for each task - we write the time expected to complete a task on its card
  10. time incurred in a task - after a task is complete we write the time taken to complete the task on the card
  11. multiple projects - it is possible to put work from multiple projects on the same kanban board; the idea is to have all the work that the team is supposed to complete for the week on a single kanban board for easy visualization; the limitation here happens if the projects have many requirements and thus tasks required (this can make the kanban board very big and thus harder to read)
  12. incidents - these can be assigned as tasks on the kanban thus having time allotted to fixing them

A good kanban board allows us to complete work at a smooth pace without the need for a project manager as the work team can organize the work by themselves.