Recently we were asked to teach a group of agile coaches about coaching teams using Kanban. We decided to teach them the principles and then use some example boards for them to discuss what they notice. These turned out to be a great way of teaching the principles so we thought we would share them.

Are you ready to put your Kanban knowledge to the test? Pretend that you are walking through an organisation and you pause and see the boards below. Think about what you see, what you think might be happening and what questions you could ask to either clarify your assumptions or get the team thinking.

Example 1: What do you notice in the board below?

Example 2: What do you notice in the board below?

Example 3: What do you notice in the board below?

Example 4: What do you notice in the board below?

Example 5: What do you notice in the board below?

Some thoughts:

1: There are no WIP (work in progress) limits on the board. The in progress column should have a limit on the number of items in it.

2: There is no PULL enabled. The in progress column should be split into busy, and ready for review. So that the review column can PULL work when the current work is finished, rather than having work pushed into the column.

3: The WIP limit on the Create column has been exceeded. The limit of 4 applies across both the in progress and done column.

4. The is a bottleneck in Test. You can see this because most of the columns upstream are waiting for work from test to flow. The team should all be working on alleviating the bottleneck.

5. This was a bit of a tricky one. Although there are two column in each step, this still doesn’t enable PULL, because the WIP limit is over the wrong columns. Once something from design is finished, it moves to the Review pending column, and potentially breaks the review WIP limit. You can’t stop something from being finished, you can only delay starting something. So the WIP limit needs to be combined over the Design WIP and Review Pending Columns.

Did you notice more? What questions could you ask these teams? (leave your questions in the comments below!)

kanbanbookHow did you do?
If you’d like to improve your Kanban knowledge our workbook provides a step by step guide to help you learn about and implement the principles of Kanban with your team.

The book follows the journey of a company called Growing Gardens, as they embark on a project to write a gardening book using Kanban. You will see how their board evolves as they embrace the principles of Kanban, and encounter problems along the way.

You can download a free sample of the book here: