Kanban 101 - The Kanban Board

With Kanban 101 we are aiming to give our readers a jump-start guide to get their Kanban engine running. For this purpose we are going to use Kanbanize, so you can start implementing what you learn right away.

The board is the first gradient of Kanban. Without it, there are going to be just random sticky notes posted everywhere and they won’t be any different from the mess that most of us have on our desks.

messy desk

We can think of the board like the river where our work items flow. Depending on how we shape the river we can either be productive and have a positive outcome, or just let our to-dos pass everywhere around us losing control over the situation. The typical Kanban board has three columns: To Do, Doing and Done and in Kanbanize the columns are as follows:

Requested, In Progress and Done. In time you will find certain patterns in the way you work and in the phases, your work items pass through. Each of these phases can be separated from the “in progress” state and defined as a Kanban column on its own. More about this is to follow in the posts to come for the more experienced fellows.

Basic Kanban Board

The board in Kanbanize similar to the physical one consists of three main areas: Backlog, Workflow, and Archive.

The Kanban Backlog

The Backlog is the place where you add your to-dos and ideas. In most of cases, the work items are not organized and they appear in the order they have been added. You can think of it as your idea vault or else said – “all the work that could be done”

The Kanban Workflow

The Kanban workflow has three default columns – To Do, In Progress, Done. Depending on the complexity of a work process, these three stages can be divided into many smaller sub-columns. Regardless of the complexity of the workflow and the number of sub-columns, the main stages remain the same: Requested, In Progress and Done.


Logically after the Backlog comes the Requested area. You pull the work items that have been added to the Backlog and place them in the Requested area. This is what you plan to work on next.

The to-dos are organized in the order they will be tackled. Those ones which you plan to process first appear higher in the column compared to the ones you plan to handle later. This is how you prioritize tasks with Kanban.

In Progress

moving cards on a Kanban board

Try Kanbanize Free for 30 days. Create Your First Board.

Every item that has been pulled from the “Requested” stage and hasn’t been completed yet is “in progress.”

Even if you have started to work on a given item and then you stopped, it is “in progress.” And it remains so until it is completed or removed from your flow in which case the time that you have invested in this item converts into “pure waste” according to the Kanban method.


This is the state where all completed items are pushed to. Note that in Kanban there isn’t such a thing as “almost done”. If it is not completely done then it is still “in progress”.

The Kanban Archive

In order to keep your board clean and “uncluttered”, you can move all of the completed items to the Archive. In Kanbanize there are two types:

  1. Temporary archive – you can keep all of your completed items for a given period of time (let’s say a month).
  2. Permanent archive – after the time-box from above expires, it’s recommended (from functional and performance point of view) to move the completed items here. Don’t worry, the items are not deleted, just “zipped”. You can restore them at any time.

The outlined example is just one of the many implementations of the archive.

Kanban Columns and Kanban Swimlanes

In Kanban, there are two possible ways to organize your flow, either by columns or by swimlanes. There are many applications of these two attributes. For example, some use the swimlanes to separate teams, functional areas, and even whole businesses.

Let’s imagine that we have the typical Kanban board that consists of the three main stages which in our example are the columns: Requested, In Progress and Done. We also have three different teams that want to collaborate on the same board, so let’s call them team A, B, and C. In this case, the board would look like this:
Kanban board swimlanes

Depending on the complexity of a work process there could be many different Kanban Board templates. Check out our dedicated article for more Kanban board ideas.

Stay tuned for more of the Kanban 101 blog series. Happy kanbanizing!

This entry was posted in Kanban, Kanban Resources, Resources on by .
Bisser Ivanov

About Bisser Ivanov

Keen on innovation, exploration or simply trying new things. Would that be a technology, new methodology or just cool gadgets. Got almost 2 decades of experience working as Software Engineer, Team Lead, QA/Processes Manager and Managing Director in mid-size and large scale Software Companies: Prosyst, SAP, Software AG.

Subscribe to our blog. Get each new piece of content straight into your mailbox.

Read insightful articles from top Agile/Lean thought leaders and our experienced team.