In working along the Kanban approach, you’ll come across a number of basic ideas - elements of the Kanban method. Let’s take a moment to find a place for each of them in the Agile Kanban space.
Kanban Method is the general notion of using a visual board with WIP limits, to better manage workflow and improve process efficiency.
A Kanban Board is the actual whiteboard, wall or digital board, that you or your team will use to present the workflow - in columns showing process stages, and swimlanes (rows) indicating various projects or clients that are being managed.
Kanban Cards are the movable representations of tasks on the board. Each card is one job to be done, and it should always be placed in the exact column that shows its stage of completion. That’s how everyone will be able to learn the current state of the process, by taking a single glance at the board.
Geographically distributed teams, large groups, or anyone else who fancies it, can use a digital Kanban board instead of a whiteboard. This extends the reach of the board - anyone can view and edit it from wherever they are, and can do so at any time. Kanban software like this has a few other benefits over using a physical board - digital cards can hold more information, you can automate actions, set reminders and process metrics are calculated for you.
The most common metrics that Kanban method practitioners turn to are Lead & Cycle Time and Cumulative Flow. Lead & Cycle Time looks at the relation between the time that items spend on your board in total - Lead Time - and the time they are being actively worked on - Cycle Time. Cumulative Flow diagram collects all work - both what’s present on the board and items completed over time, and presents it divided into process stages. It’s goal is to show the flow of work in time - for as long as the graph grows upwards smoothly, you know that work is progressing just fine. Bumps, ditches and halts in the graphic are indicative of process issues and bottlenecks - allowing you to judge the situation without even viewing the board itself.
The importance of each Kanban element to your process will depend on your specific workflow, but it’s good to get familiar with all the basics, so as to be able to benefit from as many Kanban features as you can.