Kanban 101 – The Kanban Board

This is the first article of a series dedicated to the small LEGO® blocks of which Kanban is built. 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 their 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 column on its own. More about this is to follow in the posts to come for the more experienced fellows.

simple board - bigger - edited

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


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


The Workflow has three stages. It doesn’t matter how it’s structured, how complex it is or how many different columns it has. The stages are Requested, In Progress and Done.

1. Requested – 

Logically after the Backlog comes the Requested area. Here you place the work items that have been added in the Backlog and you plan to work on next. The to-dos are organized in the order they will be tackled. The ones which you are planning to work on first appear higher in the column compared to the ones you are planning to handle later.Requested column 2 - edited

2. In Progress – 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.

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


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 or archives:

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.

Columns and swim-lanes

In Kanban there are two possible ways to organize your flow, either by columns or by swim-lanes. There are many applications of these two attributes, for example some use the swim-lanes 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 states 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:

 three columns three lanes


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

Looking for more materials about Kanban? Check our Kanban Resources knowledge base.

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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.

2 thoughts on “Kanban 101 – The Kanban Board

  1. Pingback: What’s a Card in Kanbanize | Kanbanize Blog

  2. Pingback: An Introduction to the Essentials of Kanban | Kanbanize Blog

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