Kanban Card Templates to Make Work Visual

Vidas Vasiliauskas ·

2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood. 2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank. 2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course 2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise. Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products. MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University. Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing

Card templates

There is a fine gap between good and great work descriptions. Even if it does not sound like an attractive topic, do not settle for mediocrity here and pay attention to how work is described. To help you on this journey, I have collected a set of Kanban card templates for demonstrating differences and values.

What is a Kanban card template?

In short, a Kanban card template is a predefined visual or contextual structure that ensures the necessary information for successful output is present.

There is a vast range of what can be treated as a card template. Starting from text-only sticky notes and going to super-specific technical cards such as those used in manufacturing.

Why good work description matters?

If you are working or striving for truly asynchronous communication inside your organization, you should ensure that work descriptions are meeting quality criteria. If someone taking over the task will need to write questions and seek missing information, the time waste is already there. In the majority of cases based on productivity community feedback as well as our own experience, people neglect details and keep knowledge implicit, when describing what needs to be done. Which results in extra meeting hours inside video calls or frustrating chats in discussion platforms.

The person creating work has critical knowledge of the problem to be solved, expected results, and sometimes even potential solution options. If the person does not feel sure about the problem that is being solved, then it is another problem. So, all in all, it is about saving your colleagues time.

How work is described on Kanban cards?

In all cases, the Kanban card must have at least a title, stating what’s the problem to be solved or what is the actual task to be done. Everything else comes as optional descriptive data. Based on which Kanban board tool you use, you will have some flexibility to decide what’s shown on each Kanban card and you might be even able to save your own custom Kanban card templates.

Remember, different work types might require different templates.

5 simple Kanban card templates for ideation

1. The Lean One
Nothing special, just the title!

simple kanban card template

2. 20% effort, 80% result

Has a responsible person, has a deadline, has a detailed breakdown of what actually fulfills the bigger piece of work, or makes specifics explicit.

detailed kanban card template

3. The Visual One

Use images, colors, and tags to provide additional information that is non-text. Reading text produces cognitive load on human beings, color coding helps to ease out.

For example, Card color can symbolize work type and once people get used to that, they can skip reading and get that information just by seeing the color. Color coding works great in Kanban.

visual kanban card template

4. The One with Relations

If work requires some other task to be finished first or the opposite, a good rule of thumb is to decorate a card with such information. So that whenever someone considers what to do next, that person has all the necessary knowledge to succeed instead of getting blocked right away.

If you feel unsure, you might want to read up on work relation types.

kanban card templates

5. The High Quality One 🔥

This one is crafted by our own product team and it is more about detailed description than the actual card itself. Actually card can be any of the first 4 examples, but the inside of the card delivers the most value. It has been refined by fire, by failure, and by pain.

The goal of sharing is to trigger some thinking and discussions. When performing any product change we aim to meet 4 fundamental elements of good description:

💥 Problem – essential to keep everyone aligned. What are we solving here? Quite often we find ourselves drifting to solution space and forgetting what was the problem.

📢 Evidence – what’s the proof for the problem and its importance?

⚒️ Solution – how to solve the problem. For a bonus, can include more than one option with pros/cons.

Questions – to capture unsolved parts or define risks.

Example of such template in action

kanban card teamplate

So which template to choose?

You should start with the easiest one and move up gradually. But, you must understand that the real value with significant risk reduction comes from the more detailed templates. Moreover, you should embrace best practices in work description, it is not a single person’s job. Your team should participate in refining and crafting the contents of each work item. Only then you will be able to have a proper overview of why, what, and how needs to be done.

Lastly, you can juggle different templates for different types of work. The more trivial the task at hand, the simpler the template. This will give you some balance of risk reduction and effort invested.

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