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Kanban boards

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Kanban board benefits Farm use cases When to use Getting started Top tips

Kanban boards are a workflow management tool used on farms to improve communication and task organisation. This page explains how these boards contain Post-It notes representing tasks, and they're moved across columns (Backlog, To Do, Doing, Done) as the team works through them. The benefits include increased visibility, time-saving, improved standards, and fostering ownership and independence. It guides you on how to use the Kanban boards on your farm, what types of tasks are suited for it, how to get started, and offers top tips to make the process efficient. It's a practical tool for managing smaller, routine, and naggy tasks.

Kanban boards are a workflow management tool that improve communication by making tasks visible to the whole team.

A Kanban board contains Post-It notes for tasks currently being done on farm. Each task is moved across the columns (Backlog, To Do, Doing, Done) as it is worked through to completion.

Kanban board benefits

kanban board

  • Visibility – teams can see what needs to be done, communication is improved by getting task lists out of everyone’s head and shared with the team.
  • Save time – efficiency is maximised when the team know what they need to do next, and within what time frames.
  • Improve standards – teams can see the required standards for each task.
  • Ownership and independence – teams are supported to use their initiative, be proactive with their farm work, and be more independent to choose tasks.

Using Kanban boards on farm

Use a visual board in the farm office, this makes it easier for team meetings.

Each task is written on a Post-It note, with enough detail for the team to understand, then placed on the board in the relevant column (Backlog, To Do).

When a team member has available time, they select a task from the To Do column and move it to the Doing column. Each task is moved across the columns as it is worked through to completion.

Anyone in the farm team can add tasks to the Backlog column, the farm manager/team leader generally moves them to the To Do column and decides on the priority order and the time frame for completion.

Farm teams have suggested using the board on a weekly basis to discuss priorities, progress and celebrate jobs done well. The board then becomes central to workload discussions.

Kanban boards are suited for

  • smaller tasks - jobs that can be completed in 1-2 hours
  • routine but irregular tasks - jobs that are done routinely, but not every day
  • naggy tasks - jobs you might have to nag the team to complete

Getting started with a Kanban board

Watch the videos below, or follow the step-by-step instructions further down the page.

Step 1 - What is a Kanban job board

Video 2:06 min

Step 2 - How a Kanban job board works

Video 2:38 min

Step 3 - Task Notes and Efficiency Tips

Video 3:03 min

Step 4 - Running a Successful Stand up Meeting

Video 1:44 min

Top tips for Kanban boards

  • For recurring tasks, it may be easier to make a durable laminated task that includes a photo.
  • Make sure the limits on the To Do and Doing column fit with team availability, allowing for routine work, days off and urgent tasks.
  • Hold team meetings as often as the team requires. Too often and they become frustrating but too few and people may not get feedback or an opportunity to discuss hurdles or concerns.
  • Re-prioritise tasks and review tasks that remain on the To Do or Doing list for more than a week, or past the expected completion date.

Kanban 1

Create a physical board with 4 columns

This can be as simple as creating columns on a wall with some tape, on a whiteboard, or on a printed and laminated sheet.

Add column headings

Backlog - To Do - Doing - Done

Add a row along the bottom for seasonal/out-of-the-ordinary tasks such as mating or shed cleaning.

Kanban 2

Kanban 3

Create post-it notes for current tasks

The tasks should be sized to be completed in 1-2 hours and occur irregularly.

Assign tasks to people using their initials

On each task you could also reference the relevant standard operating procedure (SOP) and put a date.

Kanban 4

Kanban 5

Agree on definitions

As a team agree on definitions for 'ready' and 'done'

A task must meet the agreed definition of 'ready' before moving from Backlog to To Do

A task must meet the definition of 'done' before moving from Doing to Done.

Team leader ranks the To Do column tasks

The team leader's role is to prioritise the To Do tasks column from high to low, so all team members know the highest priority tasks to work on.

Kanban 6

Kanban 7

Limit the tasks in the Doing column

We call this 'work in progress limits' and it encourages people to finish tasks before starting new ones.

All team members add new tasks to Backlog

These can then be moved to the To Do column and prioritised by the team leader.

Team members select tasks from To Do and progress them across the board.

Kanban 8

Kanban 9

Hold weekly team meetings to discuss task progress

Share any helpful experiences and reprioritise tasks.

It's a good time for the team to select new tasks they want to complete.

Remove things that are slowing the team down

The team leader should focus on removing impediments.

The frequency and timing of meetings is dependent on the roster, but tools like WhatsApp and Messenger allow people to attend remotely.

Kanban 10

Kanban Q&A

Find the answers to some commonly asked questions about Kanban boards.

  • If a task needs to be completed by a certain date what do I do?
    Add the due date to the Post-It note and place the Post-It at the top of the To Do column.

  • How do I know who is doing each task?
    You can do this a couple of ways. If only one person can do a task write their initials on the task when creating it. Team members can also write their initials on the task when they pick it from the To Do column. Alternatively, when you have a weekly team meeting, ask the team what task they want to do and initial the upcoming tasks for the week.

  • How do I make sure the team does the most important tasks first, not the ones they like? 
    It’s the team leader’s role to prioritise the tasks in the To Do column. The easiest way to do this is place the highest value tasks at the top and the least value at the bottom of the column.

  • How do I stop team members from starting multiple tasks and not finishing them? This is one of the key challenges Kanban addresses. In the Doing column, we add Work In Progress (WIP) limits. The limit is the maximum number of tasks that can be in the column at once. The WIP limits should be set at a level where, there would still be time in a day for unplanned or urgent tasks.

  • What happens if a task sits in To Do for too long?
    For each day a task sits in To Do, we suggest putting a mark on it and keeping a tally. If the task has not moved for several days, it’s up to the team to ask what is stopping that task getting done, and for the team leader to remove any impediments.

  • What’s it like when you first start using the board? 
    It can be an adjustment for the team leader to let go of delegating tasks to certain people, and trusting people to pick the tasks at the top of the To-Do category.

  • Do the Post-It notes fall off? 
    No, they are surprisingly sticky if you use genuine Post-It notes.

Kanban ('khan bahn') is a Japanese word meaning 'job you can see' or sign board.

Kanban originated in the 1940's from the Toyota Production System and later become popular with software development teams.

Last updated: Sep 2023
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