Prioritizing work tasks is always a challenge. Learn different ways of prioritizing tasks by configuring your Kanban board.
Using the Kanban method for workflow management can help you significantly with prioritizing tasks precisely. It will guide you to arrange tasks based on their importance and resolve urgent issues as fast as possible. All you need to do is to set some basic rules on your Kanban board and make sure your team is strictly following them.
Usually, every Kanban board starts with a column called “backlog”. This is the place where you put all future work and ideas.
Next is the “requested” or “ready to start” column that serves as the entry point of work items to your workflow. All Kanban tasks that the team committed to starting are positioned there, depending on their priority.
However, there can be different types of waiting Kanban columns further in the workflow on your board, depending on your team's functionalities.
For each of them, your team needs to follow the rule of pulling top cards first—this way, the tasks of highest importance will be completed as fast as possible.
Some examples of waiting Kanban columns may be:
Generally, by using Kanban, you create a pull system where team members pull their next task after finishing their current one. However, before pulling the next work item, you need to know one basic rule:
When you place future tasks in a waiting Kanban column, you need to make sure that the top ones will be of the highest importance.
Every time one of your team members decides to pull a new Kanban task, it will be the one with the highest priority. This doesn’t mean that high priority tasks will constantly overpass tasks with low priority. You have to expedite only urgent work items.
Apart from improving transparency, swimlanes can also serve as a tool for prioritizing your Kanban board's tasks. While columns divide your workflow into different stages (such as development, review, ready for delivery, etc.), swimlanes may be used in various ways like:
In the first two cases, you can easily apply work prioritization. You need to add an “expedite” swimlane on the top of your Kanban board. After this, whenever there is an urgent issue, you simply have to move it to the top swimlane. Furthermore, ensure that the team member related to this exact issue is working only on it until its completion.
Using Kanban swimlanes for task prioritization, you can be sure that valuable work items will be completed prior to others. Furthermore, the whole process's visualization will help you notice weak spots in your workflow and continuously improve it.
The backlog is the space where you place work items or ideas that will be done in the near or distant future. However, there is no guarantee that all tasks in the Kanban Backlog will be delivered. The items in this column are more like an option the team has for future work rather than a commitment point.
The backlog may be the place where your team plans all future work, but it can easily become a messy place with tons of ideas.
This is why your team needs to review all items on the backlog to ensure that it contains the appropriate items and prioritize them. This should be an ongoing activity or, even better, an activity that occurs regularly.
Some of the things your team can do during this refinement process are:
Additionally, you can create sub-columns in your backlog to separate tasks planned for different periods, for example, each quarter of the year.
Using color indicators is one of the most common ways to prioritize work. Contemporary Kanban software solutions usually allow you to use customized colors to mark levels of priority.
For example, a red card may signify it has a critical priority, while a green one has a normal priority. You can also add color codes for tasks such as bug, change required, etc. As visual signals, color marks can be easily spotted by any team member.
You can use different tools on your Kanban board to prioritize work in an optimal way:
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