Kanban Commitment Points: What They Are and How to Use Them Effectively

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 commitment

One of the main reasons project work gets delayed or even abandoned altogether is that you’ve overcommitted to work you cannot deliver. We are all predisposed to say yes to client requests because we like them or are scared to say no, potentially jeopardizing the business relationship. 

But this is where inefficiency and disappointment will creep in – unless you can be strict and clear about the work you do take on. It’s essential to have enough information to be in the position to know what work you can take on, when, and what impact this might have on other work items already in progress. 

This is where the concept of the Kanban Commitment Points comes in. This brief article will define Commitment Points in Kanban, why you would benefit from using them, and how to set them up using Teamhood

Looking for more information on Kanban? Check out our resource library.

What are Commitment Points in Kanban?

Commitment Points are like significant steps between different stages in your process. For example, from planning to execution or from engineering to quality assurance. After a work item crosses the commitment point, it should not return. You can have as many commitment points as you like.

Here is what they look like on a Kanban board:

kanban commitment

A Commitment Point is when we have gathered enough knowledge about the work to say that we can initiate it. Commitment Points create alignment between everyone involved. By pulling work through a Commitment Point, your delivery team effectively confirms that they have reviewed the work, understand it, and have the resources and time needed to start working on it and deliver it successfully. 

Commitment Points separate your upstream from your delivery process. As you discover more about the work and validate whether or not you can do it, you become more likely to be able to deliver it. At the same time, you are not committed to delivering the work until it passes through that point.

When the work passes that point, it is no longer optional. Now, you have accepted it as a commitment, and you have a deadline by which you have committed to delivering it. 

Benefits of defining Commitment Points

Using Commitment Points improves your workflow in many respects, not least because it means your team knows exactly which work items they should be working on, which items they’re due to work on next, and which are ready to be delivered to your customer. This naturally results in several benefits, including:

  • More predictable workflow. 
  • Increased clarity and transparency regarding your process. 

This also helps you to avoid several common project management problems, such as: 

  • Saying yes to work or ideas you don’t have the capacity for.
  • Commit to work before you have enough information to know if you can work on it.
  • Wasting time on work items, you won’t be able to finish successfully due to a lack of resources or time. 

How to visualize and implement Commitment Points in Teamhood

When constructing our workflow in Kanban, you can have a Discovery (upstream) and Delivery (downstream) process. Upstream Kanban is where you manage incoming requests before committing to work on them.

The Discovery process is where you validate ideas or customer requests. After validating ideas, you can decide which work items to execute next. You engage your team members in a Replenishment/Work Commitment meeting.

Once you have gone through the validation and replenishment phases, you can start on delivery. For a well-optimized Kanban workflow, it’s best to implement two Commitment Points:

  1. A Work Commitment to start the work
  2. A Delivery Commitment

On a Teamhood Kanban board, you can visualize these with a “Backlog” group and a “Work in Progress” group. Then, each group can be divided into as many columns as needed to visualize the process steps.

Simple Kanban board example

Once a team member can start work on a task, the task is represented by a Kanban card that gets pulled into the “In Progress” column. The progress section can be composed of several columns or expand the child items of the task to track their progress.

project management kanban

As the work items approach delivery to the end customer, you can commit to a specific delivery date.

Ready to start using Kanban Commitment Points for your projects?

Using Commitment Points in Kanban is a great way to increase the predictability and transparency of workflow while avoiding taking on too much work at once and helping optimize your team’s productivity over time. 

Now that you have a better understanding of Commitment Points and the benefits of using them, why not take a look at our Kanban system use cases to find out more about the potential benefits of using Teamhood for your projects:

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