What Is a Kanban Card? Definition and Details Explained

A Kanban card is a core element of the Kanban method. The card visualizes every task on the board and it serves as an informational hub for task’s progress.

Introduction

The Kanban term leads its inception from the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota. It literally means “visual sign” or “visual card”.

Back in the 1940’s when Toyota used Kanban for the first time, the cards were in the form of paper notes, which were pinned on a physical board (Kanban board). Toyota workers used the kanban card system in order to create transparent work process and reduce production waste.

Around 60 years later, David J. Anderson took the original idea and set the foundations of the Kanban method for knowledge work. At first, the method was implemented in the software development industry and it had a tremendous positive impact on teams’ productivity.

Nowadays, the Kanban method is widely spread across various industries like manufacturing, IT, software development, marketing, finances and others, because of its positive impact on workflow efficiency. But, let’s focus on the Kanban cards.

What Is a Kanban Card?

A Kanban card is the core element of each Kanban board. Every card represents a work task that needs to be executed.

A Kanban card contains valuable information about the task and its status on your Kanban board such as cycle time, deadline and else. This whole data serves as a way of communication between different team members.

Kanban Card (physical)
An example of a physical Kanban card.

Indeed, the actual application of Kanban cards is to visualize your assignments’ progress from the moment they are requested to the moment they are considered done. During this process, the cards:

  • Serve as information hubs  
  • Reduce the need for actual meetings.
  • Improve transparency of the work process itself

The Nature of Digital Kanban Cards

Contemporary online Kanban solutions are loaded with many more features compared to the traditional physical boards. Now information across Kanban cards is way more accessible and provides a great advantage for both onsite and remote teams.

Basically, digital Kanban cards have a front side and back side.

Digital Kanban card

The front side gives you basic information about the task such as description, title, who has been assigned to it, cycle time, priority and subtasks. This is the visible part of a card on a Kanban board and it provides you an opportunity for a quick overview of work items.

Back side of a Kanban card in Kanbanize

The back side of the card can be used for recording valuable metrics and information, while it goes through the workflow. Here, your team can leave comments, attach files and external links, and check historical data of the card. This side of a card is visible when the card is open.

Kanban Card Configurations

Different team members observe and digest information in different ways. Some would like to see the whole data for a given task simultaneously, while others prefer to spot only the most valuable information.

In this sense, good Kanban software solutions offer personal card configuration options. This means every member of a given board can configure an individual card view that fits only his/her preferences.

Kanban card

For example, a simple Kanban card configuration that shows basic information for a task may be appropriate for daily team meetings. This way, all team members can get a quick overview of all current tasks, without going into details.

Kanban card configuration

On the other hand, every team member needs more information when working on an individual task. Therefore, personal Kanban card configuration that reveals the maximum amount of information can simplify the work process and improve visibility and team collaboration.

Kanban cards may be configured in many different ways in order to show valuable information such as deadline, cycle time, attached files, subtasks and much more. You need to find the Kanban card configuration that fits best your own working habits.

In Summary

Kanban cards visualize work tasks in a workflow and help you to:

  • Record crucial documentation for a task
  • Review details at a glance
  • Minimize waste time
  • Identify opportunities for collaboration

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