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Trello Kanban

by Simon Buehring
Embrace the clarity and efficiency of Trello's Kanban tool and transform your team's workflow into a visual journey towards productivity.
Trello Kanban |

Introducing Trello

Kanban is a visual system for managing work as it moves through a process. Kanban visualises the workflow and sets limits on the amount of work in progress, which helps improve efficiency. It originated in Japan with Toyota’s production system but has since become a popular tool in various industries, particularly in software development and IT services.

Trello is a web-based application that replicates the functionality of a Kanban board. It provides a virtual space where cards, lists, and boards combine to form an efficient workflow management system. In Trello, the board represents the project, lists correspond to workflow stages, and cards are the tasks.

Trello features

Boards: the foundation

Each board in Trello is a project with its own unique workflow. You can create multiple boards for different projects or teams. Boards ensure that a project’s entire scope is visible at a glance.

Lists: workflow stages

Within each board, lists define the stages of the workflow. Common list titles might be ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’, and ‘Done’, but Trello allows for customisation to match any process. Lists help teams track progress and identify bottlenecks in real time.

Cards: individual tasks

Cards are the actionable items that move across lists. Each card can represent a task, a feature, a user story or any piece of work that needs to be tracked. As work advances, cards are moved from left to right across lists. This visual shift provides instant insight into project progress.

Limiting work in progress

One of Kanban’s core principles is to limit work in progress (WIP). Trello facilitates this by enabling teams to set limits on the number of cards that can be in a particular list at any given time. Limiting WIP helps prevent overloading team members and identifies process inefficiencies. This is one of the many Kanban metrics that the tool supports.

Assigning tasks

In the spirit of Kanban, Trello allows you to assign cards to specific team members. This ensures everyone knows who is responsible for each task. Team members can have an overview of their individual responsibilities as well as the collective project demands.

Labels for efficient categorisation

Trello utilises labels to categorise tasks. These can represent priority, task type, or any other classification important to the workflow. Labels provide a visual cue to quickly identify aspects of tasks which can help in swift decision-making and prioritisation.

Due dates and timelines

Cards can have due dates assigned in Trello, which are essential for time-sensitive tasks. A calendar view provides an additional temporal perspective on the workflow, showing when tasks are due and helping to ensure deadlines are met.

This feature is especially useful not just to support the Kanban systems of teams, but also for individual using the tool to support their own personal Kanban.

Making processes explicit

Each Trello card can include a description, checklists, attachments, and comments, which makes the process and expectations around each task explicit. This is aligned with Kanban’s principle of making the process policies explicit to all team members.

Trello’s power-ups: enhancing Kanban

Trello offers ‘power-ups’ which are add-ons to enhance the basic board’s functionality. Relevant power-ups for Kanban include:

Card ageing

This visual tool shows how long a card has been in a particular list. If a card is stagnant, it becomes faded. It’s an excellent way to identify tasks that may be stuck and require attention.

Burndown Charts

For Agile teams interested in tracking their progress over time, the burndown chart shows the amount of work left to do versus the time remaining. This is useful for ensuring that the team is on track to meet their goals.

Cumulative flow diagram

This feature provides a visual representation of the various stages of tasks over time. It’s a powerful way to identify bottlenecks and improve workflow efficiency.

Collaboration in Trello

Collaboration is a key aspect of Agile, and Kanban in particular, and Trello supports this with features that foster communication. Team members can comment on cards, mention each other in updates, and subscribe to cards, lists, or boards to receive notifications on changes.


Trello’s platform offers a robust set of features to implement Kanban effectively. From basic boards, lists, and cards to more advanced power-ups, Trello can be customised to fit any workflow.

By understanding and using these features, and the many example Kanban boards provided, teams can manage their work processes efficiently, ensuring that tasks are moved to completion while providing transparency and fostering collaboration.

If your team does choose to use Trello as its Kanban tool of choice, then getting Kanban certification or taking Kanban training won’t help them get up to speed. For that, they will need to follow the many support tutorials, articles, and videos available on the Trello site.

Whether you’re new to Kanban or looking to streamline an existing process, Trello provides the flexibility and functionality to enhance your team’s productivity.

Learn from agile leaders

agileKRC has helped shape agile thinking by leading the teams that developed AgilePM® and PRINCE2 Agile®. We take a practical, success-oriented approach. We begin by taking the time to listen and understand your needs, before offering our real-world experience and expert guidance.

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