kanban terminology

Kanban Cheat Sheet – A Quick Reminder of Terminology & Practices

Do you ever find yourself looking up Kanban terminology? We sure do! No matter how long you have been practicing Kanban, sometimes you just forget. To make sure this does not ruin your day, we have prepared a quick rundown of the most important Kanban terms and practices.

Find all of them below and forget searching the whole internet for the right information. If you want something to keep on your desk (or desktop) instead, scroll down to download a beautiful Kanban cheat sheet! We hope this helps with your Kanban application!

Kanban

Kanban is one of the most popular Agile applications used today. It strives to visualize the workflow and optimize processes to deliver the most value. While it has started in software development, Kanban is now used in various fields and even scaled to manage company-wide processes. Due to its flexibility and waste reduction, Kanban is valued in sales, finance, engineering, accounting and various other teams. If you are not yet familiar with this practice, you can find more here – Kanban methodology – how it works?.

While the practice in itself is simple, the terminology it uses can feel foreign. Especially if you are coming to Kanban for the first time. In this case, having a resource to consult for the process and terminology is great. This is what we are aiming to do here – a quick rundown of all the Kanban basics in one place.

Process Organization

Process

Kanban projects run on need-based iterations that the team uses to deliver incremental value to the end product. It is up to the team to decide both – when an iterations is over and when a substantial value has been added to the end product.

Task Size

Kanban does not define a specific size a task has to fit. However, it asks for the tasks to have a clear goal that the team can complete. Some teams make all tasks of the same size to ease planning, others add estimates.

Task Assignment

Tasks are not assigned to team members in Kanban. Instead, team members pull tasks from the backlog based on their skill set and task priority.

New Tasks In Iteration

The team can add new tasks to an ongoing iteration. Regular tasks are added to the Backlog and urgent tasks can be added to a separate priority swim lane.

Roles

There are no predefined roles in Kanban. A team usually keeps the roles they have previously had and works together to deliver results.

Iterations

Kanban iterations are planned on the need basis and ended once the team feels they have added substantial value to the end product. It is up to the team to decide when a new iteration should begin.

Estimation

Estimation in Kanban is optional. Teams usually chose to estimate in hours or broad size metrics like ‘Small’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Large’.

Meetings

Kanban teams decide when they need to hold the meetings. However, they do not happen on a planned schedule like in Scrum. There are 4 meetings for the team to have:

Planning Session – a meeting where team fills the backlog with tasks and prioritizes them based on importance. Set off by a Planning Trigger.

Daily Standup – a 15-minute meeting where each team member presents what they have done yesterday and what they plan on doing today.

Iteration review – a presentation of the completed work to see if the set values were met by the team.

The retrospective – an end of the iteration or project meeting where the team members discuss the process and how it can be improved.

Task Board

Kanban task boards are comprised out of 3 main sections – Backlog, Work In Progress and Done. The teams often expand these sections with additional columns to clearly represent all the process steps. ‘Backlog section’ holds planned and prioritized tasks. ‘Work In Progress’ section holds tasks that the team is working on. And ‘Done’ section holds the completed tasks.

Prioritization

Kanban lets the teams decide if they want to use prioritization. Most teams that prioritize tasks, do so with the priority columns in the backlog.

Scope Limits

Laslty, teams manage the amount of work that is being done with WIP limits. Team members cannot start working on more tasks than the WIP limit states.

Kanban Terminology

Planning Trigger

Planning Trigger alarms the team when it is time to arrange a planning session. It goes off as there is a certain number of tasks left in the backlog and makes sure the team plans new tasks before the old ones run out.

Bottleneck

Kanban teams use the term Bottleneck to describe a task or another obstacle that prevents them from making further progress in the project. Team then focuses on removing the Bottleneck to resume working as usual.

Lead Time

One of the two metrics used by Kanban practitioners, Lead Time describes total time from the initial customer request to the final product delivery.

Cycle Time

Second Kanban metric Cycle Time defines the total time from when a team started working on a task to its completion.

Cummulative Flow

Cummulative Flow Chart or CFD shows the quantity of work in each given state – arrivals, queue, departure.

Swim Lane

A horizontal lane along which cards flow on the board. Represents categories, features, etc.

WIP Limit

Work In Progress limit sets the number of tasks the team can work on at any given point. This guarantees each task is completed before a new one is taken on.

Like this summary? Then we have good news for you – we fit all of this information into the handy Kanban cheat sheet below. Grab it and keep it close by for any questions you may have about Kanban.

And if you are looking to expand your Kanban board to effectively track both – large work items and their subtasks, check out our 2D Kanban. Complex made visual. It will answer all your complex process management needs with a visual 2D Kanban board that lets you track both – large work items and subtasks.

Kanban Cheat Sheet

kanban cheat sheet

Summary

Kanban is visual and flexible project management approach that fits most teams. It brings clarity and speed to delivering products or services and thus have been applied in many fields since it was first introduced. This Agile approach has a set of vague guideliness, but is not limited by very strict rules. Thus, it is great for teams that already have some experience with Agile and want to have a guide to create their own way of being Agile.

You can also check another article sharing some of the most creative Kanban boards to get your creativity flowing.

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