Visualizing project policies in Kanban

When David Anderson visited us last month, he mentioned that we must make sure project policies are explicit by writing them down. Recently, I had a some sort of epiphany that some of these policies could be visualized as well – directly up on the wall.

I prefer a whiteboard and post-its for our Kanban wall, at least as long as the team is co-located. This gives us an instant overview of the flow, and we gather around it to discuss how to optimize the throughput. It’s simple, but flexible.

To keep track of lead time and cycle time we update the tickets with important dates as we move the tickets across the board. However, I noticed that tickets weren’t always updated with necessary information for my statistics, so we needed a better approach.

First we standardized the way the tickets look, with fixed places for different items, but routine glitches still happened every now and then. Then we started to visualize the criteria for moving a ticket to a new state.

First arrow in the image above shows the transition when the ticket is prepared and moved into the backlog. The person moving the ticket fills in the current date in the upper left corner (the red square). Similar happens in the next transition from backlog to analysis.

When moving from development to test, another person must test the new feature (or defect).

When tickets are done, the completed date is added, accompanied by a subjective well-being using :-), 😐 or :-(. The latter is later used in the retrospective.

Most of these visual elements were added just a couple a weeks ago, but so far the notation seems to be easily understood and effective.

Are you visualizing any of your project policies?


P.S.: Thanks to Jim Benson for a great tip on how to measure the subjective well-being, as an input to the retrospective.


  1. Jim Benson says:

    This is an awesome set of policies.

    I love the idea of making them icons on the board.

    In several situations, with both Personal Kanban and kanban with teams, people have realized they have too much backlog because “it doesn’t fit” on the board any more.

    This type of visualization makes a few easy and beneficial policies fun and easy to adhere to. If you get too many policies, the board will become cluttered and people will rebel against the control and confusion.

    Awesome work, my friend.

    1. hunskaar says:

      Appreciate your feedback, Jim!

      I completely agree, this is best suited for simple policies, too many or complex will make the board confusing.

      By the way, I think we managed to agree on these rules collaboratively in the team, as you expressed very well in your blog post earlier today:

      Recommended reading, everyone! 🙂

  2. Very impressive. Definitely something others should consider adapting and adopting for their own systems. Icons to communicate simple policies is a great idea!

    Well done! 🙂

    1. hunskaar says:

      Thanks, David!

      This is of course just a small improvement to the process, but i guess that’s what it’s all about – incremental, evolutionary changes. 🙂

Start the Discussion!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *