The Kanban Guide defines three core practices. The first is “define and visualize a workflow” and while it describes what needs to be in that workflow, it doesn’t give any guidance on how to facilitate as session with a team to do that definition. In this video, I describe how I facilitate a session with teams to define their workflow.

Key points:
  • Define at least one work item type.
  • Starting from the end and working backwards, what steps did we need to do to get the work done?
  • Group all of those items into columns, potentially with entry and exit criteria.
  • Put WIP limits on all columns. See this article for guidance on picking initial limits.
  • Pick an initial service level expectation (SLE).
  • Pick another work item type. Does it match the workflow we just designed? If so, it can use this board. If not, start the process all over again for a new workflow.
  • Once we have all of those, consider whether we need classes of service and if so, define them here. See this article for a deeper understanding of classes of service and when they’re appropriate.
According to the [Kanban Guide](, these are the items that must be defined in your workflow:
  1. A definition of the individual units of value that are moving through the workflow.
  2. A definition for when work items are started and finished within the workflow.
  3. One or more defined states that the work items flow through from started to finished.
  4. A definition of how WIP will be controlled from started to finished.
  5. Explicit policies about how work items can flow through each state from started to finished.
  6. A service level expectation (SLE), which is a forecast of how long it should take a work item to flow from started to finished.