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3 core practices of Kanban. Defining and visualising the workflow.

The Core Practice of Kanban: Defining and Visualizing Your Workflow


One of the foundational practices of Kanban is to define and visualize your workflow. This step is crucial as it sets the stage for all participants in the system to agree on what they do and how they currently work. By pulling together various pieces of information, teams can gain a clear understanding of their processes and improve their efficiency.

Defining Your Workflow

The first step in implementing a Kanban strategy is defining your workflow. This involves asking several key questions:

  1. What Goes on Our Board?
  • Determine the types of work that should be represented on your Kanban board.
  • Identify different categories of tasks and projects to ensure all relevant work is visualized.
  1. What Are the Stages of Our Work?
  • Define the stages that all work items go through from start to finish.
  • These stages will form the columns on your Kanban board, representing the flow of work.
  1. How Do We Select Work Items?
  • Establish criteria for selecting which work items to prioritize.
  • Consider factors like value delivery, business impact, and team capacity.

Achieving Team Agreement

A common issue teams face is a lack of agreement on these fundamental questions. Without consensus, team members may select tasks based on personal preference, skill set, or perceived coolness, rather than business value. To address this, teams should focus on the following:

  • Maximizing Value:
  • Ensure that the selection process aims to maximize the value delivered to the business.
  • Make informed decisions that align with business goals and customer needs.
  • Defining Rules and Policies:
  • Develop a set of agreed-upon rules for selecting and moving work items.
  • Clearly define the states of work and the types of tasks to be managed.
  • Controlling Work in Progress (WIP):
  • Set limits on the amount of work in progress to avoid overloading the system.
  • This helps maintain a steady flow and reduces bottlenecks.

Visualizing Your Workflow

Once the workflow is defined, it’s essential to visualize it. This involves creating a Kanban board that reflects the agreed-upon process, making the workflow transparent to all team members. Visualization offers several benefits:

  • Transparency:
  • Provides a clear view of the current status of work items.
  • Helps team members understand the flow and identify bottlenecks.
  • Stability:
  • A stable system requires a consistent way of working.
  • By visualizing the workflow, teams can ensure that everyone follows the same process, leading to a more predictable and efficient system.

Achieving Consensus and Stability

The ultimate goal of defining and visualizing your workflow is to create a stable and predictable system. Stability comes from having a well-defined process that all team members follow. This includes:

  • Debating and Deciding:
  • Engage the team in discussions to reach a consensus on the workflow.
  • Make decisions collaboratively to ensure buy-in from all members.
  • Documentation:
  • Write down the agreed-upon workflow and policies.
  • Use this documentation as a reference to maintain consistency.
  • Continuous Improvement:
  • Regularly review and adjust the workflow to address any issues or inefficiencies.
  • Use metrics and feedback to drive improvements.


Defining and visualizing your workflow is a critical practice in Kanban that lays the foundation for effective team collaboration and improved process efficiency. By achieving consensus on how work is selected and managed, and by visualizing the workflow, teams can create a stable system that supports continuous improvement.

If you are struggling to implement a Kanban strategy, we can help. Our expert trainers and consultants are ready to assist you in defining and visualizing your workflow, ensuring your team can achieve greater predictability and value delivery.

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