Using these 7 simple steps you can build your own visual processing board

The logic that is used in these simple steps can be used for both personal use and team use to aid collaboration, extend focus and improve the speed with which tasks are completed.

7 steps visual process

Common Benefits of Visual Processing Boards

These boards are often referred to as Scrum Boards or Kanban Boards but for our purpose we will call them processing boards.
What can these boards deliver?

  • Visualisation of the work allowing everyone to know what is being worked on
  • Reduction of waste, defined as work that is not required immediately or in some cases at all
  • Improvement of the quality of work
  • Deliver the completed task in less time – increased speed
  • Builds trust into team with the open visual collaboration
  • Reduces micro management of a team
  • Clearly defines blocked items of work for resolution
  • Reduces stress amongst team members and individuals

1. Create

Create yourself a simple board that will allow you to move your work through a flow. Using Cardsmith this can be done with a standard 2 x 2 grid board – just give it a name.

create a process board

2. Define Flow

To allow your work pieces to flow, define what this means to you and /or your team. This can be a model of your actual process flow or a simple Kanban flow that keeps the steps to a minimum, your steps should start on the left and flow to a finish on the right.
The example below has 4 processing flow steps – Backlog (to do), Ready to Start, In Progress, Done.

Define flow example board

3. Define Roles

Use this step to define the roles (rows) of the processing, this might be departments, team members, functions, feature sets or projects, the list is endless.

Define Roles Example

4. Fill the Backlog

This step is where we do a bit of a brain dump to add everything that is relevant to this board, regardless of status at this stage. This might be ‘to do’ type of data, or more detailed data around a task. Make sure task chunks are created small enough to be achievable in an agreed timescale. In SCRUM the timescale is known as a sprint defined by the teams, i.e 1 week, 2 weeks. This can also be a good time to add a value to the task to help define the overall resourcing for the board.

Fill backlog example

5. WIP Limits

Work in Process (WIP) is the work that is sitting under ‘In Progress’ on the board. To facilitate yourself or team members to complete work and to increase the velocity of the processing, there should be an agreed limit to the number of items at this step. A good starting number for this is 3, this allows tasks to be worked on in a priority order should a task be held up.
Using the visual functions in Cardsmith, prioritizing the cards is a simple process and makes the flow easily read by any team member.

wip limits example

6. Blocked Work Rule

If a piece of work currently in progress becomes blocked for any reason, this should be indicated to ensure a flag is raised to signal help is needed. Define your rules that indicate blocked work and ensure this is followed consistently. The simplest way to indicate blocked work is to change the colour of the task card – red is a good colour.

The team should assist first with removing the block, however, this might not be within their control and outside help could be needed, making it visible provides a path to the right resource for resolution.
If work is blocked, it is legitimate for the owner to move onto the next highest priority task in their list, or to pull in another task from the ready to start column.

blocked work rule example

7. Review and Refine

The magic sauce on these types of processing boards, is the review and refine stage, where each of the members reflect on how the processing went and what might be done differently next time. This continued reflection on the processing allows personal processing or team processing to improve on each iteration of the steps.
The key point that makes this so special and simple is with fixed tools, like white boards, to do list, sticky note tools, calendar reminders, etc., once you have it set up it is fixed without a lot of effort to change. Using Cardsmith for your processing boards, you can change the boards as you find better ways to work without setting up new boards.
Adding, hiding or deleting columns and rows is a simple click and setting default cards makes the addition of new work pieces a joy to setup.

Review and refine example

Make a start you will see a difference in how you focus and finish tasks immediately.
The results that are seen when individuals and teams implement these simple steps to move to visual processing boards and the feedback always has the same theme;

  • Improved Focus on the important and urgent tasks
  • Reduced changes in priorities leading to increased throughput
  • Improved communication across teams
  • Increased trust from stakeholders and on lookers
  • Heightened curiosity from colleagues as they see teams velocity increase – how are they doing that?
  • Individuals report they complete tasks in half the time than allocated

For more detailed steps to setting up a SCRUM, KANBAN or SCRUMBAN boards refer to our How to Build Your Own Kanban or Scrumban in 12 steps post.