what is a task board and how to make the most of it

“When you visualize, then you materialize.” This quote from the American psychologist Denis Waitley perfectly summarizes one of the most effective tools modern leaders use for managing their time, team process, or even entire companies.

Although there are different means to use for visualizing work, there’s hardly any tool capable of outperforming task boards. That is, of course, if you know how to make the most of it.

If you are not confident that you’ve mastered the art of workflow visualization, I suggest you stick to the end. What awaits you in the next paragraphs will help you gain a better understanding of what a task board is, why you need it, what types of task boards are available and how you can make the most of them.

What Is a Task Board?

Simply put, a task board is a “board where you visualize all your tasks”. Task boards are used by individuals, teams, and entire organizations to help them efficiently complete work. Such boards are usually divided into a few columns representing the work process, and tasks come in the form of cards.

Task boards can be as basic as a plain whiteboard with a list of items you want to complete or a complex digital Kanban board integrated with multiple other platforms.

Why do I say Kanban board? Because the majority of task boards that you can find available are very similar in structure to the ones used in Kanban, consisting of multiple columns that represent different steps that an assignment must pass to be completed. However, remember that there’s still a significant difference between them.

Why Do You Need a Task Board?

Task boards can take your personal “To-Do” list to the next level by giving you the opportunity to gain a far more comprehensive point of view of all your affairs.

Unlike your personal “To-Do” list, a task board may show you how far along toward completing an assignment you are. You just need to have the discipline to update the progress on your board in a timely fashion.

To explore the full range of benefits that come with using task boards, we need to go through the typical use cases of these boards.

Types of Task Boards

Visual management boards can be categorized into 2 main types:

  • Physical task boards
  • Digital task boards

Physical Task Boards

In general, physical or manual task boards are made on a wall or whiteboard using sticky notes. Boards are located where all team members have access to them and serve to organize everything a team needs to accomplish.

physical task board

Example of a physical tasks board

Manual task boards usually have simple designs, including just a few columns for the different stages of progress. The main benefit of implementing a physical task board is that you can easily manage your tasks and rearrange their order of execution in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Team collaboration and real-time updates of tasks’ progress can be difficult for remote teams that decide to go with manual task boards.

Digital Task Boards

Electronic task boards are great for making it transparent who is doing what all the time. With real-time updates, they facilitate collaboration, offer data insights, and provide much more work flexibility to the team.

To be effective, these boards need to mirror the process steps that your team follows when working on their assignments. Modern Kanban software solutions, for instance, offer a rapidly growing number of custom features, integrations, and customizations that easily cover task management and allow you to focus on improving your process flow, delivery speed, etc.

With the help of team electronic task boards, you can monitor how work items are progressing and how much work is on the table for your team. This will allow you to manage the capacity of your team based on the current workload.

How to Make the Most of Your Task Board?

Putting up a visual task board is quite easy, but making the most of it – is not so much. What you’ve read so far is scratching the surface of all the value it can deliver to you and your team.

Over the years, I’ve learned from experience that visualizing your workflow is barely enough to manage your personal, team, or company assignments effectively. This is why I’ll share 3 tips for making the most of all the possibilities that task boards offer.

1. Make Your Boards Globally Available

Physical task boards are fantastic for building the habit of visualizing your work and updating its status based on progress. However, as you become more adept, you’ll start noticing some limitations.

For example, physical task boards are not suited for visualizing the work of remote teams. Even with contemporary communication tools, updating a physical board when all team members are dispersed will require additional effort and come with some lag, as real-time updates will be quite challenging.

On the other hand, online task boards will allow you to manage your work from any point of the globe with an internet connection.

Most of the contemporary software solutions come with various other added functionalities like workflow analytics, card dependencies, the ability to integrate with other platforms, etc. With their help, you’ll be able to turn your board into a globally available base of operations for your organization.

2. Match Your Task Board Layout to Your Process

To make the most of your team board, you should consider the specific steps of your team’s process. Afterward, you’d want to map them on the board in a way that tells you more about their status than the fact that they are in progress.

Map your task board to your process

For example, a typical software development board would have the following columns:

  • Tech Design
  • Coding
  • Testing

You can even draw horizontal lines across your board to build swimlanes for distinguishing between different priorities, types of work, etc.

Kanban board with mapped swimlanes

Online Kanban board with mapped process steps and types of work

3. Turn Your Task Board into a Tool for Improvement with Kanban

As I mentioned earlier in this article, most task board layout templates that you’ll find available were inspired by the visual boards used in the Kanban method. This is not a coincidence, as the method relies heavily on visualization to achieve continuous process improvement leading to evolutionary organizational change.

Putting up a task board will help you see what you’ve got going on and what awaits in your backlog. Implementing it in combination with the rest of the Kanban practices will help you manage your workflow in an increasingly efficient way and achieve continuous improvement.

Following this logic, I encourage you to start slowly if you have no experience using Kanban boards. It is wise to begin with a simple board that mirrors exactly your work process. This way, you and your team can see the benefits of using Kanban boards and avoid internal resistance.

Task Boards: a Good Starting Point

Task boards are a fantastic tool for visualizing your work. They are by far superior to any “To-Do” list as boards provide a more comprehensive point of view for managing your tasks.

Starting with a physical whiteboard is a good way to build a habit of keeping your task board up to date, but in time you may need some of the added functionalities of online task board solutions.

Last but not least, don’t rush to complicate your task board until you understand the dynamics of managing a complex process and have given your team enough time to get comfortable visualizing their work. Kanban can be a great ally on that mission!

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