Kanban Boards

Your constantly-updated definition of Kanban Boards and collection of videos and articles

What are Kanban Boards?

A Kanban board is a project management tool that helps teams visualize work and track project status in real-time. Borrowing them from the Toyota Production System, agile teams frequently use Kanban boards to increase transparency and limit the work-in-progress.

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The Kanban method originated in the 1940s, when Toyota developed lean manufacturing processes to optimize productivity and reduce waste. The Kanban board is such an effective tool that it can be used by any team that needs to manage projects, not just teams practicing the agile methodology.

Structure of a Kanban Board

A basic board has three columns: To-Do, In Progress and Done. The team writes down all tasks on cards—one task per card—and adds them to the appropriate columns. Each member then picks up tasks assigned to them and moves them from To-Do to In Progress and finally Done. Some agile teams may include columns such as Review, Blocked, Releases, etc., depending on their process.

Example of a Kanban board in Github.
© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Kanban in Agile

In agile teams, the tasks on each card are typically (but not necessarily) written as user stories. Teams add the tasks or user stories for the current sprint in the To-Do column and aim to move all the tasks planned to the Done column by the end of the sprint. 

Agile teams also commonly use a column labeled Backlog for all tasks that the team plans to work on in the near future. Teams may also use an Ice Box column as a placeholder for ideas and tasks that the team is not yet ready to work on but might consider down the line.

In organizations that have multiple projects moving along simultaneously, the Kanban board is sometimes divided horizontally into swim lanes. As opposed to creating a different board for each project, the swim-lane approach offers everyone on the team visibility on what everyone else is working on at any given time, without having to switch between multiple projects.

Learn More about Kanban Boards

Kanban is one of the several methods used by agile teams. For more industry insights, methods, tips and best practices, take the course, Agile Methods in UX Design.

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Learn more about the philosophy and methodology behind Kanban, from which Kanban boards derive their name.

Here are some examples of how organizations and teams can use Kanban boards for different types of projects.

Read the origin story of Kanban and how it helped Toyota go from a loss-making organization to a global competitor within a few years:

Literature on Kanban Boards

Here’s the entire UX literature on Kanban Boards by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Kanban Boards

Take a deep dive into Kanban Boards with our course Agile Methods for UX Design .

Agile, in one form or another, has taken over the software development world and is poised to move into almost every other industry. The problem is that a lot of teams and organizations that call themselves “agile” don’t seem to have much in common with each other. This can be extremely confusing to a new team member, especially if you’ve previously worked on an “agile” team that had an entirely different definition of “agility”!

Since the release of the Agile Manifesto in 2001, agile methodologies have become almost unrecognizable in many organizations, even as they have become wildly popular. 

To understand the real-world challenges and best practices to work under the constraints of agile teams, we spoke with hundreds of professionals with experience working in agile environments. This research led us to create Agile Methods for UX Design.

In this course, we aim to show you what true agility is and how closely agile methodologies can map to design. You will learn both the theory and the real-world implementation of agile, its different flavors, and how you can work with different versions of agile teams.

You will learn about the key principles of agile, examples of teams that perform all the agile “rituals” but aren’t actually agile, and examples of teams that skip the rituals but actually embody the spirit.

You’ll learn about agile-specific techniques for research and design, such as designing smaller things, practicing continuous discovery, refactoring designs, and iterating.

You will also walk away with practical advice for working better with your team and improving processes at your company so that you can get some of the benefits of real agility.

This course is aimed at people who already know how to design or research (or who want to work with designers and researchers) but who want to learn how to operate better within a specific environment. There are lots of tools designers use within an agile environment that are no different from tools they’d use anywhere else, and we won’t be covering how to use those tools generally, but we will talk about how agile deliverables can differ from those you’d find in a more traditional UX team. 

Your course instructor is product management and user experience design expert, Laura Klein. Laura is the author of Build Better Products and UX for Lean Startups and the co-host of the podcast What is Wrong with UX?

With over 20 years of experience in tech, Laura specializes in helping companies innovate responsibly and improve their product development process, and she especially enjoys working with lean startups and agile development teams.

In this course, you will also hear from industry experts Teresa Torres (Product Discovery Coach at Product Talk), Janna Bastow (CEO and Co-founder of ProdPad) and Adam Thomas (product management strategist and consultant).

All open-source articles on Kanban Boards

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