Common mistakes to avoid when using kanban: Pitfalls to watch out for and how to overcome them.

Kanban is a popular project management framework that emphasizes visualizing work, limiting work in progress, and continuous improvement. While it is relatively simple to get started with kanban, there are some common mistakes that many teams make when implementing the framework. In this article, we will explore some of the pitfalls to watch out for and how to overcome them.

Mistake #1: Not starting with clear goals

One of the biggest mistakes teams make when implementing kanban is not starting with clear goals. It is important to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with kanban before you start using it. This will help you to focus your efforts and ensure that you are getting the most out of the framework.

To overcome this mistake, take some time to define your goals before you start using kanban. What are you trying to achieve? What problems are you trying to solve? What benefits do you expect to see from using kanban? By answering these questions, you can create a clear vision for how kanban will help your team.

Mistake #2: Overcomplicating your kanban board

Another common mistake is overcomplicating your kanban board. It can be tempting to add lots of columns and sections to your board to try and capture all the different types of work you are doing. However, this can quickly become overwhelming and make it difficult to visualize the flow of work.

To overcome this mistake, keep your kanban board simple. Focus on the key stages of your workflow and limit the number of columns you have on your board. This will help you to easily see the status of work and identify any bottlenecks in your process.

Mistake #3: Not limiting work in progress

One of the key principles of kanban is limiting work in progress (WIP). This helps to avoid overloading your team with too much work and ensures that you are only focusing on the most important tasks at any given time. However, many teams fail to implement WIP limits effectively, leading to a backlog of work and delays in completing tasks.

To overcome this mistake, set realistic WIP limits for each column on your kanban board. This will help you to focus on the most important tasks and ensure that you are not overloading your team with too much work. It is also important to regularly review and adjust your WIP limits based on your team's capacity and workload.

Mistake #4: Not visualizing the flow of work

Another common mistake is not visualizing the flow of work. Kanban is all about visualizing work and making it easy to see the status of tasks as they move through your process. However, many teams fail to effectively visualize their work, leading to confusion and delays.

To overcome this mistake, make sure that your kanban board is properly visualizing the flow of work. This can include adding swimlanes to show different types of work, using color coding to indicate the status of tasks, and adding notes or comments to provide additional context. By properly visualizing your work, you can easily see where tasks are in your process and identify any bottlenecks.

Mistake #5: Forgetting to continuously improve

Finally, one of the biggest mistakes teams make with kanban is forgetting to continuously improve. Kanban is all about constantly reviewing and improving your process to optimize for efficiency and effectiveness. However, many teams implement kanban and then forget to review and improve their process over time.

To overcome this mistake, make sure that you are regularly reviewing and improving your process. This can include conducting retrospectives after completing tasks, analyzing your metrics and performance, and identifying areas for improvement. By continuously improving your process, you can ensure that your team is working as efficiently and effectively as possible.


Kanban is a powerful project management framework that can help teams to visualize work, limit work in progress, and continuously improve their process. However, there are some common mistakes that teams make when implementing kanban, including not starting with clear goals, overcomplicating the kanban board, not limiting work in progress, not visualizing the flow of work, and forgetting to continuously improve. By avoiding these pitfalls and implementing kanban effectively, your team can enjoy the benefits of improved productivity, reduced cycle time, and better collaboration.

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