What Is a Kanban Board? And How To Use One

By Kyla Mintz

In a virtual workspace, project management can be challenging. Luckily, a powerful tool called the Kanban board can help streamline the process.

With its ability to display tasks and workflows in a clear and organized manner, Kanban boards enable teams to work more efficiently, especially for those working remotely.
Also, by using columns to represent different stages of work, this transparent tool makes it easy for teams to find and fix bottlenecks quickly.

If you are curious about the "Kanban board" tool, keep reading and learn more about it and how it can benefit your team.

What is a kanban board?

The Kanban board tool visualizes work and optimizes its flow among a team. It helps to standardize and streamline the workflow by identifying and resolving all blockers and dependencies, ensuring that team members remain informed about the project's overall status.

Kanban boards, whether physical or virtual, serve the same purpose: to show how work is being done, standardize processes, and quickly deal with bottlenecks and dependencies. Digital and virtual workplace tools, like the ones built into Kumospace, make it easier to keep track of things, work together, and access information from multiple places, making it easy to work remotely.

The basic Kanban board structure comprises three stages: To Do, In Progress, and Done. However, it can be tailored to suit any team's unique system and objectives.

The Toyota production system from the 1940s is where the Kanban methodology originated. Taiichi Ohno came up with the visual scheduling system as a way to improve the efficiency of manufacturing and make the work process clear. Later, in 2007, David Anderson re-introduced the concept of the Kanban board.

Anderson took the idea of the Kanban method and made it even better. He suggested drawing the workflow on a whiteboard so that he could trace the progress of the work efficiently. This is how the Kanban board was born as we know it today.

Today, Kanban boards are used in many businesses, especially those with virtual offices, to keep track of and organize their work. And because working from home has become more common, virtual boards have become essential for team members to talk to each other simultaneously.


Key components of a Kanban board

An adequately organized Kanban board has four key components that work together to ensure a successful virtual work environment, even when you're miles apart:

Kanban columns

These visual aids represent different stages in the workflow, guiding tasks along their journey to completion. Think of them as the train tracks of your project—keeping everything on course and minimizing delays.

Kanban cards

These cards represent individual tasks and work items. They hold critical information such as deadlines and assignees, making tracking progress easy and avoiding the dreaded "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon.

Work-in-progress (WIP) limits

These handy restrictions keep your team focused and efficient by limiting the number of tasks at each stage of the Kanban board. After all, even the most diligent workers can't juggle too many balls at once.

Kanban swimlanes

These lanes serve as horizontal dividers and make organization easier by putting tasks into groups based on activities, teams, or classes of service. They're like the lanes in a pool, helping you keep your strokes—or, in this case, tasks—in order.

Benefits of using a Kanban board

The Kanban board offers numerous benefits an organization can leverage to streamline workflow and maximize productivity, particularly in remote or virtual workspaces. These are:

Enhanced visibility and transparency

The board provides visibility into case status, priorities, and dependencies, allowing team members to easily track work progress and determine what's pending and what's in progress.

Improved workflow efficiency

The board eliminates the need to do multiple things at once by limiting the workload that can be done at once and optimizing cycle time. This makes it possible to finish work items faster.

Reduced work bottlenecks

The tool highlights work bottlenecks, enabling the team to focus on the priorities that matter most and eliminating the backlog due to lack of focus, people, or skill sets

Increased team collaboration and flexibility

It encourages effective collaboration and real-time communication, allowing teams to work remotely and adjust to constantly changing priorities.


How to create a Kanban board

Creating a Kanban board is an incredibly efficient way to manage your team's workflow, especially a free-to-use one like Kumospace. Therefore, set up your Kanban board with these simple steps and watch productivity skyrocket:

Identify workflow stages

Start by outlining the stages of your workflow. Like building blocks, these will form the foundation of your Kanban board's column. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, so take your time to get it right!

Create columns and cards

With your workflow stages defined, create columns on your board to represent each stage. Next, transform your tasks into cards by jotting them down on sticky notes and assigning them to their respective columns.

Establish work-in-progress limits

To avoid the dreaded bottleneck effect and keep team members focused, limit the number of tasks allowed in progress per column. Think of it as a virtual velvet rope, allowing only the essential tasks.

Customize and organize your board

Add a personal touch by customizing and organizing your Kanban board to suit your team's needs. Utilize labels to signify task priority or assign tasks to specific team members—because variety is the spice of (work) life!


How to use a Kanban board

Kanban boards are a powerful tool for managing tasks and projects, particularly in remote work and virtual offices. Here's how to harness the magic of a Kanban board:

Adding and prioritizing tasks

Adding and prioritizing tasks
Initially, populate your board with tasks and separate the wheat from the chaff by prioritizing them based on importance and urgency.

Tracking work progress

Avoid the dreaded "What's the status of that task?" question by moving tasks through various workflow stages. Not only does this showcase completed tasks, but it also reveals the pesky unfinished ones.

Collaborating and communicating with team members

Kanban boards and virtual offices go together like peanut butter and jelly, facilitating seamless collaboration and communication. Assign tasks, leave feedback, and discuss task updates with colleagues, all within the board's confines.

Continuously improving and refining your process

A Kanban board isn't a "set it and forget it" tool. Periodically review the board, identify bottlenecks or areas for improvement, and adjust as needed. Your future self will thank you.


Jira Kanban board: a popular tool

If you want to visualize your remote team's workflow and increase productivity, you might want to consider Jira Kanban boards. A Jira Kanban board is a popular agile and DevOps software development tool.

It shows how much work is being done and how many people are on the team.

The Kanban board in Jira Software helps teams visualize their workflow, limit work-in-progress, and maximize efficiency.

Other benefits of Kanban boards include the following: 

  • Promoting transparency.
  • Keeping day-to-day project management in check.
  • Configuring simple or complex workflows depending on the nature of the project.
  • Preventing bottlenecks early on in projects by setting WIP limits.
  • Providing visual metrics in the form of Cumulative workflow diagrams and control charts. 

Here's an overview of Jira's Kanban board features:

  • Kanban board is a framework for agile and DevOps software development that works as an agile project management tool for visualizing your work, maximizing your flow or efficiency, and limiting work-in-progress.
  • Jira Kanban boards generally use columns and cards to help service teams get their work processed in a well-defined manner.
  • Jira Software's Kanban boards provide visual metrics like cumulative workflow diagrams and control charts. 

Here is how to set up a Jira Kanban board:

  • Create a new project in Jira.
  • Customize your Kanban board to fit your team's needs by customizing your columns.
  • Add tasks to your board.
  • Move tasks across your board.
  • Customize your board with filters.

Some tips and best practices for using Jira Kanban boards include:

  • Limit work in progress (WIP).
  • Visualize your process.
  • Use a definition of ready & done.
  • Create swimlanes for different types of work.
  • Keep the board clean.
  • Make it easy to move issues
  • Don't overcomplicate it.
  • Use automation where possible.

Kanban board examples and use cases

Here are three examples of Kanban boards that show how flexible and valuable this visual management tool can be, especially where asynchronous communication is needed:

Software development projects

  • Parallel process management: Kanban boards facilitate the organization and tracking of simultaneous tasks.
  • Pull system reinforcement: "Ready" queues help ensure that teams only work on tasks when they have the capacity.
  • Work-in-progress (WIP) limits: By setting limits, teams can maintain focus and prevent bottlenecks.

Content creation and marketing

  • Content creation workflow management: Kanban boards streamline content ideation, creation, and publication processes.
  • Idea and progress tracking: Visualize the status of content pieces and stay on top of deadlines.
  • Social media campaign management: Organize and monitor campaigns to ensure timely execution and engagement.

Personal task management and productivity

  • Personal task management: From daily routines to long-term goals, Kanban boards keep personal tasks organized and visible.
  • Goal progress tracking: Monitor and assess progress toward personal and professional goals.
  • Daily routine management: Plan, prioritize, and track daily tasks to boost productivity and maintain work-life balance.

Tips for optimizing your kanban board

A well-optimized Kanban board can transform your virtual office platform into a productivity powerhouse. Thus, follow these three tips to make the most of your Kanban board:

  1. Regularly review and adjust work-in-progress limits: Keep the workflow smooth and prevent bottlenecks by ensuring team members aren't swamped with tasks.
  2. Balance workload among team members: Distribute tasks evenly to avoid overburdening specific individuals while leaving others twiddling their thumbs.
  3. Hold regular team meetings for board updates: Keep everyone in the loop and address issues promptly to maintain a harmonious and efficient workspace.

The Kanban board is a powerful tool for managing projects. It improves visibility, speeds up workflows, and makes working together easier, especially in a complete virtual workspace setup.

Derive maximum value from your Kanban board by reviewing work-in-progress limits regularly, distributing work evenly among team members, and holding team meetings to share updates.

So, use Kanban boards to their full potential in your virtual office and change how you handle tasks and projects.

FAQs on Kanban boards

What is a Kanban board?

A Kanban board is an agile project management tool that helps people see what needs to be done, limits the amount of work that can be done simultaneously, and increases efficiency (or flow).

How does one create a Kanban board in Jira?

You need administrator access to your Jira instance to create a Kanban board in Jira. Here are the steps:

  1. Go to your Jira dashboard and click on "Projects".
  2. Select the project for which you want to create a Kanban board.
  3. Click on "Create Board" and select "Kanban Board."
  4. Configure your board by selecting the columns you want to use and setting up any filters or swimlanes.

How do you use a Kanban board?

To use a Kanban board, you must first set up your workflow by defining the stages of your process. Then, you can add tasks or work items to your board as cards and move them through each workflow stage as they progress.

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Headshot for Kyla Mintz
Kyla Mintz

Kyla is part of the Marketing team at Kumospace, where she helps run the social media accounts and creates content. Kyla has many different passions outside of work, including volleyball, traveling, and restaurant dining.

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