Kanban Board

Get your team on the same page by monitoring and updating progress on tasks

To Do Done In Progress

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What is a Kanban Board?

Kanban boards let you manage tasks by assigning them a card then placing that card in a column that represents its status. As progress is made, the card is moved across the board to the right. It's easy to see at a glance where tasks are in the process. A simple Kanban board may have just three columns labeled: "To do" or "Not started yet", "In Progress", and "Done" or "Complete".

The board originated from Lean manufacturing techniques that visualize workflow. Kanban boards were made famous by Japanese automakers that used them to manage project tasks. The concept has expanded outside the Lean manufacturing industry and it's now also popular with companies practicing Agile for software development.

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Kanban board example
3 step kanban board

How to Use a Kanban Board

The word Kanban literally means "signboard" in Japanese. The process of implementing a Kanban board is to break tasks down into logical categorical steps - commonly referred to as workflow. The workflow of the Kanban board typically has three categorical steps:

  1. A queue, representing work to be started
  2. An in-progress step, representing work that is currently in-progress towards completion
  3. A completed step, representing work that has been completed

Each categorical step, including the queue, is limited in the number of work items assigned determined by the team or workflow manager. Work, represented as a card within the step, is added into the queue step, pulled in-progress and then moved to the final step upon completion.

To properly introduce Kanban boards, you need to know what your development workflow generally looks like you will typically want some visual way of communicating the workflow to the team.

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What are the Benefits of Kanban Boards

Kanban boards makes the status of tasks very easy to see at a glance. Both stakeholders and team members can glance at the board and quickly understand where everything stands. It removes other complexities of project management like dependencies and lets the team focus on the bottom line: where does this project or task stand? This helps promote open communication among team members and leads to better collaboration. kanban boards also operate on a pull-based system, where work is pulled into the next phase only when the team has the capacity to handle it, rather than being pushed onto team members.

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4 column kanban board
Choosing kanban template

Using SmartDraw Kanban Boards

SmartDraw offers a simple Kanban Board that works like sticky notes on an electronic whiteboard.

Step 1. Start with a Kanban board template.

Step 2. Determine your workflow columns.

Step 3. Add cards for tasks and pull them to the appropriate columns when needed.

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Scrum Board vs Kanban Board

Kanban boards are more relaxed and reflect a continuous flow of tasks from left to right. Tasks are constantly being pulled from "to do", into "in-progres", and then "done" based on a team's capacity. Scrum boards are ususally part of a more rigid framework with fixed-length iterations. A Scrum board for a Sprint would represent what the team committed to shipping during that Sprint. The expectation would be that at the end of the Sprint, the board would be reset.

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Scrum vs Kanban
Kanban board labeled

What are the 3 Elements of Kanban?

Every Kanban board has three basic elements: a board where tasks are organized, columns that represent the status in the workflow, and cards that represent the tasks. You can have different Kanban boards for each team or department. If you're part of a Scrum team, your board may actually be a Scrum board that represents a specific Sprint.

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What are the 6 Rules of Kanban?

There are six core principles behind running projects using Kanban boards. These were defined by the original adapters at Toyota.

  • Never pass on defective products.
  • Take only what is needed.
  • Produce the exact quantity required.
  • Level the production.
  • Fine-tune production.
  • Stabilize and rationalize the process.

Source: Kanban - Toyota Production System Guide - Toyota UK Magazine

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6 rules of kanban

Kanban Boards in Real Time

The very purpose of a Kanban board is to help distill project management to its essence. This means meetings can also keep to high-level points instead of getting lost in the details. As you review the board as a team, it's important that adding and moving notes on your board is quick and easy. You don't want to waste time manually lining up or moving notes. SmartDraw's Kanban board makes formatting automatic. When you add sticky notes using action buttons, SmartDraw's board will automatically expand to make room and the notes are aligned with the existing notes on the board. Moving notes from one column to another is just as easy. Just drag and drop and the board will automatically adjust to make room.

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Add Jira Cards to Any Board

If you need specific details from Jira for your board, SmartDraw lets you import individual Jira cards as needed. Connect your Atlassian account and add any Jira card relevant to your Kanban. You can also push ideas and tickets generated during your meetings and brainstorming sessions back into Jira.

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Kanban cards from data

Kanban Board Examples

Check out these Kanban boards created with SmartDraw:

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