Top 10 Most Popular Kanban Questions

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.

kanban questions

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?

The Kanban method does not strictly define roles, but the general notion is to have someone responsible for the inflow and flow. More formal titles are service delivery manager and service request manager.

3. What WIP limit should I set?

The lower the limit, the higher the throughput! It can be either the number of people in the team minus one or just 1 for starters. WIP limits help you to focus on finishing things instead of starting more than you can handle.

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. See what should be finished first.

5. Should you estimate cards in Kanban?

Estimations in hours or story points are subjective and opportunistic at best. While Kanban, as a method, relies on probabilistic forecasting, using statistical data and flow metrics to answer the question – when will it be done?

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. If items still travel back, you must look into your flow and make changes. Otherwise, you are pulling in waste. For example, if you get a service ticket and it gets committed to resolving, you should not push it back.

7. What are some commonly tracked metrics for Kanban?

These are the well-known Flow metrics.

  • Lead time – from creation to delivery
  • 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.

8. Can we break the WIP limit?

WIP limit is to be respected. You can break it only when you are making changes to your flow. Otherwise, you should solve the source of the problem. If there is too much WIP, there is probably a resource congestion point or loss of control of starting new things before finishing things.

9. When do we prioritize the work?

In Kanban, 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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rich kanban board cards

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

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