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  • Toby Sinclair

Do you have an inclusive Kanban board?


Most Agile teams use a Kanban board to visualise their work no matter what Agile Framework they are following. These Kanban boards come in the form of either physical or digital boards.

Recently i’ve been helping teams adopt physical Kanban boards and it was during this we came across an interesting challenge. One afternoon i was helping the team experiment with some colour coding on their board. This was so they could highlight important information, in this specific case, how long an item had been in each column. The team decided to colour code each column and a matching coloured dot would be placed on the Post-It note for each day it was in that column. This would then allow the team to calculate cycle time. It was during this experiment we encountered an interesting challenge. One of the team members was colour blind.

We discovered that the colour coding that we’d chosen between the columns wasn’t going to work. Over the next few minutes we talked about some different approaches and found some colour differences that were notable enough for the team member to see clearly. We’d solved the problem and the team learned much more about colour blindness! You can learn about colour blindness here too here

It was through this situation i reflected; How inclusive are our Kanban boards?

My attention was grabbed even more when i attended an excellent talk from Dr. Sally Freudenberg on Inclusive Collaboration & Neuro-Diversity. In the talk Sal highlighted how to take a more inclusive approach to collaboration by embracing the different needs of people in diverse teams. In particular, she highlighted how Visual Timetables, such as Kanban boards, can provide a highly inclusive approach. Sal explores Visual Timetables more in her book: The Inclusive Collaboration Experiments.

Does your team have an Inclusive Kanban board?

Try this 5 minute test:

1. Can everyone read text on the Kanban Board?

It was through asking this question that a team member revealed “Honestly, i have never been able to read anything on the board during Stand Up. I always have to double check later on.”

2. Is the position of the board distracting for anyone sat near the board?

In Sal’s talk she highlighted that these big bright colourful boards can actually be really distracting. We spoke to people in the visible area of the Kanban board to ask if it was distracting, thankfully not. We also placed a notice on the board welcoming feedback at anytime.

3. Is the use of colour inclusive? Can everyone see the differences? For example Blocker or Bug stickies

We used the different colours as described but you could also experiment with different shapes or symbols.

4. Is the use of the board consistent? Is the flow through the board obvious? Are there written policies?

I also learned from Sals talk that routines can play an important part in the life of someone with autism. Having clear policies on your Kanban can be good for someone with autism and also the rest of the team. I’ve known teams to move stuff around the board without any real consistency of shared understanding across the team of why. Clear policies can help avoid this.

5. Is there a way to add a touch and feel effect to the board?

You can read about the Neuroscience of touch here. Some team members will respond to touch and feel differently. You can add another dimension to your boards by using simple household objects such as lego, pasta (seriously!), pipe cleaners and pom poms. These are particularly useful for Touchable avatars.

I’d love to see some examples of your Inclusive Kanban boards.

For further ideas of how to make your Kanban boards inclusive take a look at the W3C Web Accessibility Guidelines. Many of those are relevant for physical or digital Kanban boards.

 – Toby Sinclair @TobySinclair_

Blog image taken from where you can find more examples of Kanban boards.


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