Kanban for Agile Teams

Kanban is, its core, a set of tools you can use to become more effective, productive and, why not,  more agile. With its simple methodology of aiding people visualize the work as well as limiting work in progress, using Kanban for agile teams is a great way to improve the way things are done (it also works with any other methodology of choice, such as Scrum or any other that suits you best).

The use of Kanban for Agile Teams is mainly focused on to identifying and making improvements to existing processes. The way Kanban works helps goal achievement and, no matter whether you’re just getting started with Agile or if you’ve been using it for years, this simple set of tools can help you see things that may have been overlooked as improvement opportunities before by opening new insights.

The Kanban methodology is set on the use of Kanban Boards and Cards to represent tasks and workflow overview. Using Kanban is as simple as a physical board with color coded sticky notes, or more practical via the use of a Kanban software, such as Pipefy.

personal kanban board

Visualizing the work in Kanban’s board view will allow you to watch how tasks move across different phases of your processes, where the process could be improved, where tasks are being held up creating bottlenecks, everything is easily visualized through the use of a board.

The “work-in-progress limit” stated by the Kanban methodology is no more than setting rules with your team regarding how many tasks can be done simultaneously. Once you do that, the work that’s started and not finished will be limited to the number you previously set and no new task can be started before the space is free on the board (space becomes free as tasks are moved completely across the board).

This is a very useful way to motivate team members to focus on the WIP tasks as well as promotes collaboration to get things done better and faster.

How is Kanban useful for Agile teams?

Agile is a very well known and used methodology for project management and it’s known to be focused on iterative processes – “A process for arriving at a decision or a desired result by repeating rounds of analysis or a cycle of operations.” according to this definition.

Agile teams work with sprints, that can be from 2 to 4 weeks long, with the goal of delivering user stories – each story containing an aspect related to the desired service/product. In order to get the sprint finished, Agile teams aim on getting this specific set of stories completely done by the estimated end time. Once a sprint is finished, the results are demonstrated and then a new sprint starts being planned.

Using Kanban for Agile teams allows the work within the sprints to be easily visualized, as said before, in a board view. Kanban boards can be used not only to visualize all the tasks happening within each sprint and user story, but can also be your tool of choice to actually replace the sprint container.

Using the Agile approach means that, at the beginning of every sprint, some time will be spent trying to plan and estimate the user stories and tasks for the entire sprint period (2-4 weeks). When changing the focus to the workflows instead, by using Kanban, Agile teams can still work with their sprint methodology, just doing it faster without the need to batch the planning and estimating for all the sprint’s tasks: all of these can be done individually to each item once a card reaches the top priority on your backlog.

WIP limits will ensure people are only responsible for as many tasks as they can bear and, once there’s space available for a new task on the board, people with time and resources available will be responsible for pulling the task for themselves to work on. Stating a limit for the work in progress encourages members to be fully responsible for moving an item all the way from planning to completion. Instead of focusing on getting a 2-week batch of work done, people will focus on getting one thing done at a time, easily accompanying progress.

This, however, does not mean your team will stop using Agile or Scrum for Kanban. These methodologies are far more than just the sprint and Kanban has to be seen as a way to achieve process improvement, meaning you’ll already have your current process (whatever methodology it follows) to begin with.


Improve your processes with Kanban (and Pipefy):

Pipefy’s Agile Software Development Template proposes alternatives to traditional project management. Agile approaches are typically used in software development to help businesses be more efficient.

This process template helps your team to be more efficient and commited, adds a sense of accountability and implement an execution culture among team members.

Written by Isabelle Salemme, Product content manager at Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to write informative pieces teaching users to make the best of Pipefy. Besides being responsible for all product-related content, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover and a professional photographer.