Some companies have real, physical Kanban boards (each board for each project). In daily meeting the team would gather in front of Kanban board and perform the meeting.

1) What values does a physical Kanban board offer?

2) How to make and use it? I mean, who is going to cut paper to make "card", write down on the card, etc..?

3) Is it really worth the effort?


5 Answers 5

  1. The physical Kanban board offers the face-to-face meeting approach. It necessitates all team members to come together. Moreover the feeling for "What I'm now responsible for" increases. We introduced a physical Kanban board at our customer once before we shifted to a digital one. The method is initially better taught in a physically way
  2. Get a Whiteboard and structure your Kanban Columns with a permanent marker and a ruler. Write down the task on stickies (no cutting paper needed). To give some incentive, invest in good quality markers (e.g. Sharpie not the once you've never wanted to write with). For each team-member use a magnet with it's name on it and put the magnet on the sticky (the task).
  3. Yes it's worth the effort. The physically celebrated meeting teaches the team the process and gives some space for adjusting the process to the peoples preferences. You may like to switch to a digital approach, when the team has manifested the process. But when your team isn't distributed, what's the matter with facing up once a day in front of the board?
  • 3
    Permanent marker is sometimes not that great of an idea if the team is still defining its process or the team is working through bottlenecks and you have created buffer columns that will eventually go away. Board tape will give you more flexibility in these situations.
    – WBW
    Aug 19, 2016 at 21:30

A physical Kanban board acts as an information radiator.

It is useful for several reasons:

  • It allows the team to coordinate their efforts by giving them the big picture. For example, they may notice that one column is filling up fast and realise there is a bottleneck. It allows them to tune their workflow.
  • It helps with communication. A member of the team can glance up at the board and instantly know what work item is at what stage of development.
  • It avoids confusion. Without a physical task board the team has to rely on continually updating each other. It is easy to miss something or forget to tell one member of the team. This could result in two people working on the same item, or many other forms of disfunction.
  • It advertises what the team is up to. For other people in your organisation that do not interact day-to-day with your team it might not be clear what your team is doing. If the team is busy this will be visually apparent from the board. This will encourage people outside of the team to avoid distracting the team or giving them superfluous work.
  • It can be used to give a clear indication of priorities. The higher a work item is up the board, the higher it's priority.

Have the team discuss the best approach to maintaining the Kanban board. You could have one team member tasked with creating the cards for new work items. Or you could share the responsibility around. Do what works best for your team.

It is often useful to have a morning stand-up around the board. As each team member talks they also update the board by moving any cards they are working on.

Is it worth the effort? Well try it and see. If you find that there is no change to the effectiveness of the team then it probably isn't worth the effort of maintaining the board. But if you find that the team is better coordinated and that less mistakes are being made then surely that justifies the time taken to keep the board up to date?


Given your questions, I assume you have not yet read some of the recommended books on Kanban or attended any Kanban training. I highly recommend you start by reading the book - "Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business" by David J Anderson. It answers all types of questions around the design and use of Kanban boards/ systems and the benefits that Kanban and some its practices - such as the Daily Standup or Daily Kanban meeting and the Replenishment meeting - provide to "knowledge work" teams such as IT or software or other business functions.

Beyond that, you can choose to get more reading and training on Lean/ Kanban, Agile and related topics to fully be able to adopt and implement Kanban and benefit from its capabilities. One place you can also look at is our website for What is Kanban and related topics.

All the best.


1) What values does a physical Kanban board offer?

Visualize all team work using a very low-tech, low-budget tool while promoting face-2-face communication between team members, collaboration, and team-based problem solving. Physical Kanban boards have been around since the 80's and continue to be used by many, many organizations to help with work visualization, staying on track, and keeping teams of people focused on solving the right problems. Digital boards are becoming more and more popular with fairly flexible offerings from Jira, Rally, VersionOne, etc, but at the end of the day they all replicate the exact same behaviors you can drive on a team using a physical board.

2) How to make and use it? I mean, who is going to cut paper to make "card", write down on the card, etc..?

3M and numerous other companies make stickies. Index cards with tape work fine too. Anyone that learned to write can create a Kanban card. If you have $50 you can build a pretty sweet kanban board + tickets in very little time.

3) Is it really worth the effort?

It takes less than an hour to create a physical kanban board. All you need is a surface, some lanes (you can draw them with a marker of use tape), cards, and something to write with. If an hour invested that helps promote collaboration, work transparency, and team-based problem solving for the life of a project or team seems like a large investment, you probably have deeper issues to fix first.

The hard part is getting the team to own the process and working agreements the kanban board represents ;). Trying to create a kanban board is often the first step to achieving these behaviors, however.


I agree with @fisehara as the most effective method, I would just add one extra comment. You can also break down each column with permanent swimlanes that denote the WIP limits.

So if your WIP limit is 3, your colum has 3 sections.

The posties can only go in a section so it shows if you are at WIP limit and prevents going over.

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