What is Kanban Planning?

Planning your work activities in a most effective way is not easy. However, Kanban planning may help you optimize workflow and use your team's full capacity.

Introduction

Planning with Kanban is not exactly the traditional way of organizing future work as other methods suggest (e.g. Scrum). Kanban planning is a simple process where you place future tasks in a waiting column and the top ones are usually of the highest importance. So every time when you decide to pull a new Kanban card, it has to be the one on the top. Of course, prioritizing tasks may depend on the product owner’s wishes, project manager’s requirements or the project team’s considerations.

Kanban Queues (Waiting Columns) on a Kanban Board

Kanban board - smooth workflow

Generally, Kanban boards are divided into columns. Each of them corresponds to a different status of your workflow. Usually, a task spends some time in each column, waiting to be pulled to the next one. Here is why using waiting columns creates a pull system where work is based on actual customer demands.

Usually, there is a “Backlog” or “Requested” column on a Kanban board where all future tasks are positioned depending on their priority. However, there can be different types of waiting columns further in the workflow on the Kanban board depending on the functionalities of your team.

Some examples may be:

  • Waiting for Approval – This type of Kanban queue column is appropriate for tasks which require approval in order to be processed (e.g. payments, promotional sales, etc.
  • Waiting for Review – This Kanban queue is a relevant stage of the workflow where work items wait to be evaluated. It is like a filter before tasks go to completion stage or go back for improvements. It plays crucial role on product/service’s quality (e.g. product development, content writing, design, etc.)
  • Waiting for External Activity – This kind of а Kanban column is applicable for tasks waiting for third party actions in order to be completed. It happens often when a team communicates with other units outside of the company. (e.g. partnerships, affiliate programs, etc.)

Using WIP Limits Is Critical for Successful Kanban Planning

Successful Kanban planning requires the application of WIP limits across all columns on a Kanban board. The lack of WIP limits makes Kanban planning pointless.

Kanban board - bottleneck

By applying WIP limits on each stage of the workflow, you create a smooth process and avoid the inception of bottlenecks. If WIP limits are often violated, your team’s capacity may be overloaded and not used in an optimal way.

Finding the optimal amount of WIP limits for each column is not an easy quest. It requires constant monitoring and analysis of your workflow.

Useful Tools for Kanban Planning

Planning your work in a wrong way may create long queues with tons of waiting tasks. As a consequence, bottlenecks begin to appear at different stages of your workflow. It can damage team efficiency dramatically, increase cycle times and decrease productivity.

To manage this problem easier, Kanbanize users have the advantage of having an advanced arsenal of analytics tools. One of them is the cumulative flow diagram, which tracks all tasks on your Kanban board. It provides you information about the average cycle time in each column and helps you to alleviate bottlenecks in your team’s workflow.

Another powerful analytics tool for Kanban planning is the cycle time scatterplot. It provides you with information of how long it took to get individual work items done. This tool gives detailed information about each task for predetermined past period of your choice. It makes it easy for you to locate tasks with enormous cycle time and analyze them.

Last but not least, Kanbanize is equipped with one of the most reliable analytics online gadgets for precise Kanban planning – the Monte Carlo simulation. It gives you the opportunity of predicting future outcomes of your throughput and cycle time. Monte Carlo simulations extract historical data from your workflow and give you forecasts about the quantity of work that can be done for a certain amount of time.

You need to remember that Kanban planning is not a one-time process and it changes continuously. This is why all mentioned features give you precise data, which can be used for planning your Kanban queues in the most efficient way and adjusting them regularly.

In Summary

Kanban planning simply creates waiting queues of work items. Planning with Kanban:

  • Creates a pull system, which gives the ability to quickly adapt to changes
  • Creates waiting queues that need to be managed
  • Requires implementation of WIP limits for better workflow management
  • Gives you the opportunity of using historical data in order to alleviate bottlenecks

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Kanban Board Examples for Different Teams

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Kanban Lead Time vs Cycle Time – Details Explained

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