Workflow mapping to a Kanban board: state, queue or transition rule?

A common question that arises once you start implementing Kanban is whether a step of your workflow should be mapped to a Kanban board state, queue or a transition rule between two states. My approach to this question has been this:

State

If your work item will usually be in that workflow step for at least an entire day, with some tasks going on until it can be considered ready to move on, then this workflow step should be mapped to a Kanban board state.

Queue

If your work item will usually be in that workflow step for at least an entire day, but without any task going on, then this workflow step should be mapped to a Kanban board queue, which is a buffer to your next state so that you can smooth your work items’ flow.

Transition rule

If your work item will usually be in that workflow step for just a couple of hours, this is a very good sign that maybe this workflow step should be mapped to a transition rule between two states of your Kanban board. Our teams usually create one task for each transition rule, in addition to the other tasks needed to consider a work item ready to move on, so that they ensure that no rule will be forgotten.

Conclusion

It is important to have in mind that you can always change things until you find the best format for your Kanban board. You can always start with a workflow step mapped to a Kanban state and after a week or two you can try to transform that state in a transition rule, to test which configuration works better for your team.

What do you think? Does it make sense?

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