A Kanban card is a full-fledged element of Kanban management system.

The origins

Kanban itself is a Japanese interpretation for a word "card" or "visual signal".

Toyota company pioneered the use of physical Kanban cards to signal steps in the manufacturing process in the late 1940s. These cards with their visual nature allowed teams to communicate easily.

When the Kanban approach emerged as a system in knowledge work, convenient Kanban cards came to represent individual work items.

This card is typically displayed in the form of a sticky note on a whiteboard or as a visual card on an online board. Each card on a Kanban board contains critical information for that piece of work, and its placement on the board visually communicates the work item’s status within the team’s process.

Kanban cards' attributes 

The main idea of a Kanban card is to visually convey a work item’s progress as it flows through a process or particular system. Kanban cards are helpful in the following:

  • Documenting critical info
  • Recording important work attributes and metrics 
  • Gaining a quick understanding of items details
  • Facilitating handoffs between team members

How does it look like? 

As the main purpose of any Kanban card is to provide a quick visual status of work items, it should contain some details. Here they are:

  • A title or a unique identifier
  • A serial number
  • A brief work description of the work
  • A rough estimate of the work size
  • An assignee
  • A class of service
  • Priority, etc.

All these items can provide initial insights into the team’s work.

When Kanban cards move through the workflow, team members use the back of the card to add some applicable metrics:

  • A start date
  • A finish date
  • Blocked days
  • Blocked location
  • Lead time, etc.

What are the key benefits of Kanban cards provided by Kanban software? 

They provide:

  • Visual attributes and indicators that are easy to customize and evolve
  • The easy and equal access for onsite and remote team members
  • Stored history for the entire card's life
  • Automatic data collection that feeds into charts and graphs
  • A great range of at-a-glance information

Standardizing tasks with the help of convenient Kanban card templates improves working process efficiency and save the time of the entire team.

Both physical or digital, Kanban cards give enhanced visibility into the status of work and help to communicate with team members effectively.

Hygger suggests

Dive deeply into more Kanban methodology terms:

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