Table of contents

What is Kanban ?

Kanban in 30 seconds…

Kanban is a way of visualising a continuous flow of tasks such as this trello board we use to manage

template for a kanban board

Teams can look at the board and pick up the next most valuable thing for them to do. Managers can easily understand what is being worked on.

What Kanban is good At

Getting started

Kanban is a simple & intuitive way to get teams started. It does for agile what two coats and a ball do for football. At its simplest it requires no agile ceremonies such as sprint planning or retros though many users of Kanban start to introduce ceremonies like retros as they grow.

If you are a new and/or small startup or team with a long list of very obvious things to do thenKanban is a great way of getting started.

Lots of free and low cost tools

Kanban’s simplicity has spawned a host of easy-to-use online tools that are free or low-cost such as Trello and ClickUp

Supercharging really experienced teams

Kanban isn’t just a good place to start a team’s agile journey it can also be a good place to finish. A team that’s really organised and no-longer needs the regiment of sprints can also benefit from the extra time and freedom of not having to plan two week sprints.

A good journey to this super effciency can be:

  1. Simple Kanban to get started
  2. The discipline/organisation of Sprints as teams grow
  3. Back to Kanban once ways of working are second nature and no longer need formalising.

What Kanban is not so good at


In its simplest form Kanban does not easily give its users a sense of things being delivered unlike, say, sprints. In the early stages of a project where there is a huge list of very obvious things to get done and little technical debt or dependencies then this rarely seems to matter.

Cadence can be understood through metrics such as cycle times and flow efficiency but these are quite advanced aspects of agile that tend not to be understood at the ‘getting started’ phase of any team or ogranisation.


Without the discipline of sprints it can be all too easy for managers to disrupt the flow of their teams by sidetracking them onto other tasks. This context switching can be very disruptive to delivery.


Once the team or startup grows to the point where there is too much activity to intuitively know what every one else is doing then organising work so that it’s joined-up across groups or teams can start to get hard.

Having said that, with the right metrics & ceremonies there’s no reason why Kanban can’t scale but there is never an obvious point where this should start to happen. Teams start to feel they’ve outgrown the simplicity of Kanban and typically switch to the greater discipline of sprints.

Real life stories about Kanban

“At Resolver we took the really easy start that so many startups take which was to use Trello. Out of the box Trello gives you all the right columns but not the swimlanes which make a nice clean looking board feel clunky.

If we had added swimlanes then we could have separated engineering cards and product cards so, for example, a product feature that has both a front and back component can be split into two engineering cards written by engineers.

Without that swimlane we sleepwalked into Product Managers writing solutions on cards and then issuing them to engineers when they should have been defining problems and acceptance criteria.”

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