Top 10 Most Popular Kanban Questions

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

Kanban swimlanes

We are fans of Kanban, and we are active in digital communities discussing various Kanban-related topics. Hence, the idea was born – collect and share common questions that keep popping up.

We have looked into Reddit, stack exchange, agile practitioners, and pro kanban communities. Based on upvotes, interactions, and comments, we have defined the popularity of common Kanban questions. If you have great candidates for the list, let’s not stop at 10. Just send us your idea here.

Here is the final list of the top 10 Kanban questions alongside the answers. You can download the infographic below or continue reading to get more details on each answer.

10 Kanban Questions 1

1. Kanban or Scrum?

This is the biggest surprise of them all. Yet we ourselves were on this path (twice!). There is no best answer here, just the emphasis – these two approaches are not mutually exclusive. You can combine Scrum and Kanban and still do great. There is also a theory that due to Jira’s popularity and its “onboarding” specifics, people are forced to choose either Scrum or Kanban setup. Hence delivering this idea of binary choice.

2. What are the roles in Kanban?

When talking about Kanban, there are no specific roles defined for the team.

For those applying the Kanban method, there is more definition of the team structure, such as service delivery manager and service request manager.

3. What WIP limit should I set?

By setting a lower WIP limit, you can expect to lower your cycle time. With time this can also lead to higher throughput, however, that is not a guarantee.
The WIP limit can be either number of people in the team minus one or it can be just 1 to start with.

4. Should you do standups in Kanban?

That is totally up to the team to decide. Generally, this is regarded as a good practice to “walk the board” every morning. Look for flow blockers or impediments, and consider work item age to set the priorities on which items to complete first.

5. Should you estimate cards in Kanban?

Sizing does not matter and Kanban helps to stay away from subjective estimates. Instead, you should focus on the right item size based on SLE (service level expectations). Kanban is all about probabilistic forecasting based on historical data, and flow metrics.

6. Can cards move backward in the flow?

Kanban has a concept of commitment points. Once the work crosses the commitment point, it should go forward only. Items can still travel back if truly necessary, but backward flow is discouraged. If items often travel back, you need to look into your flow and adjust.

7. What are some commonly tracked metrics for Kanban?

These are the well-known Flow metrics:

  • Cycle time – from actual progress start to delivery
  • Throughput – number of completed items over a period of time
  • Work in progress – number of items in progress at a given time
  • Work Item Age – the amount of time between when an item started and the current time

8. Can we break the WIP limit?

WIP limit is to be respected and followed.
It can be broken in special circumstances and with agreement from the team. However, it should be discussed thoroughly and there should be a clear way back to staying at WIP limit once the issue is resolved.

9. When do we prioritize the work?

In the Kanban method, the preferred way is to select the correct class of service based on non-delivery risks instead of subjective prioritization. Once you replenish a queue of work, you can think about the cost of delay. Based on that, a better-educated decision can form a queue.

10. What are some Kanban board examples?

While there are many use cases where Kanban boards do great, we have a definitive list of the most thought-provoking specimens. Read more in our post about 25 kanban board examples.

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