Kanban

Kanban Cheat Sheet – A Quick Reminder of Terminology & Practices

Dovile Miseviciute ·

Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space. 2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood. 2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.

kanban cheat sheet 2022

Do you ever find yourself looking up Kanban terminology? We sure do! No matter how long you have practiced Kanban, sometimes you just forget. To ensure 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 having to search 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!

Here is the full Kanban cheat sheetUse the Download button at the bottom for your image or PDF copy.

Kanban Cheat Sheet

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. Contrary to what some may believe, Kanban is not a standalone methodology but rather a method that can be used on top of existing project management practices.

While it 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 unfamiliar with this practice, you can find more here – What is Kanban?

While the method is simple, its terminology 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.

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Kanban Change Management Principles:

  1. Start with what you do know
  2. Agree to pursue improvement through evolutionary change
  3. Encourage acts of leadership at all levels

Kanban Service Delivery Principles:

  1. Understand and focus on customer needs/expectations.
  2. Manage the work and let the workers self-organize.
  3. Regularly review the network and its policies to improve outcomes.

Kanban terms – Process Organization

Following are the Kanban board terms that regard the process organization. Learn what it takes to run a Kanban project and where you should start.

Kanban boards Process

Kanban projects run on the team’s need-based iterations to deliver incremental value to the end product. It is up to the team to decide when an iteration is over and when a substantial value has been added to the end product. The whole process is tracked on a Kanban board.

Kanban 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.

Making all your tasks of the same size will make your Kanban board clearer and the process more predictable.

Task Assignment

Tasks are not assigned to team members in Kanban. Instead, team members pull tasks from the Kanban board backlog based on their skill set and task priority. The number of tasks each team member can perform simultaneously is controlled by setting a WIP limit.

New Tasks In Iteration

The team can add new tasks to an ongoing iteration if there is value in completing them. Some teams chose to use rows in their Kanban board to distinguish between regular and urgent tasks. Regular tasks are added to the Backlog, and urgent tasks are highlighted in a separate priority swimlane.

Roles

There are no predefined roles in Kanban. A team usually keeps their previous roles and works together to deliver results. The prioritization in a Kanban board helps to empower a self-organizing team that does not need specific titles.

Iterations

Kanban teams do not need to plan the iteration in advance. Instead, they are planned on a 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. Iteration length is usually decided in a planning session and can be visualized on a Kanban board using separate rows for each iteration.

Estimation

With Kanban practices, estimation is optional. Teams usually chose to estimate in hours or broad size metrics like ‘Small’, ‘Medium’, and ‘Large’. Another approach is trying to make all tasks of the same size and then estimate based on the item count on the Kanban board.

Kanban Cadences

A recommended set of meetings that the team should hold regularly to ease the flow of information through the company.
All Kanban Cadences can be held as a part of already existing meetings.

  1. Daily Standup meeting – to quickly review what is going on.
  2. Weekly Replenishment/Commitments meeting – to fill up the backlog with new items.
  3. Bi-weekly Service delivery review – to present progress to the client and gather feedback.
  4. Delivery planning meeting – to plan what must be done during the next delivery cycle.
  5. Monthly Risk Review – to identify what could impact the team’s performance and how to fix it.
  6. Bi-monthly Operations review – to review the process and identify possibilities for improvement.
  7. Quarterly Strategy review – to set the course for the company.

Kanban Board

The Kanban board is a tool used to visualize the team’s process and work items. Unique to each team and created using the STATIK approach:

  1. Identify sources of dissatisfaction
  2. Analyze demand
  3. Analyze system capabilities
  4. Model the workflow
  5. Identify classes of service
  6. Design the Kanban system

Kanban boards usually comprise 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. This Kanban board section usually has separate columns for different levels of prioritized tasks. The ‘Work In Progress’ section holds tasks the team is working on. You will recognize this Kanban board section as it will have the most columns listing out the team’s process. And ‘Done’ section holds the completed tasks.

Prioritization

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

Scope Limits

Lastly, 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 on the Kanban board states.

Keep reading for more Kanban terms, or scroll down for a downloadable one-page Kanban sheet.

Kanban Terminology

Feeling lost with some terms used in Kanban? The following section explains Kanban’s unique terms and what they relate to on a daily basis. Read through and be confident the next time your team is discussing Kanban board WIP limits, planning triggers, and more.

Kanban Planning Trigger

Planning Trigger alarms the team when it is time to arrange a planning session. It goes off as a certain number of tasks are left in the Kanban board 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 Kanban task or another obstacle preventing them from progressing further on the Kanban board. The 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 the total time from the initial customer request to the final product delivery.

Cycle Time

The second Kanban metric Cycle Time defines the total time from when a team started working on a task to its completion. This metric can be easily tracked in the Kanban board as each task starts moving through the process steps. Here is more on lead and cycle time.

engineering productivity
Lead and cycle time

Cumulative Flow

A cumulative Flow Chart or CFD shows the quantity of work in each given state – arrivals, queue, departure. It helps the project manager better understand the progress and track work outside of the Kanban boards.

Swim Lane

A horizontal lane along which cards flow on Kanban boards. Teams can use Kanban board swimlanes to represent separate iterations, products, projects, etc.

WIP Limits

Work In Progress limit sets the number of tasks the team can work on at any given point. By limiting the amount of work that can be taken on, WIP limits guarantee each task is completed before a new one is taken on.

kanban wip limits

Summary

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

Use our download link above to get your copy of the Kanban cheat sheet.

Check out our Kanban board template gallery to get started immediately, or check out these Kanban board examples to get your creativity flowing.

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