One of the five core properties in Kanban is to make the process explicit. Once a process is visualized on a Kanban board, we can start improving the flow by assigning WIP limits, measuring the flow with metrics like throughput and cycle time, and the focus of this article: displaying explicit agreements on the board.

How to Make the Process Explicit

Creating a Kanban board starts with understand your current process and visualizing it on a board. As part of creating each column on the board, it’s important to also explicitly capture what is expected to complete in each column before it’s ok to move the card forward. These are often referred to as the “Definition of Done” for each column, or explicit agreements.

The easiest way to capture these explicit agreements is by listing in bullet points everything that absolutely must get completed within each column. This list can range from clear steps like a sign-off, or a specific document that must get created/updated, or something very obvious but that needs to be spelled out like successfully testing a change. Here are explicit agreements that we often see on a Code column within a software process:


  • Code completed
  • Unit tests passed
  • Acceptance tests passed
  • Documentation updated

Although some of these bullet points might seem obvious, you must consider that spelling these out will ensure that these become standard and will help guide a new team member to quickly embrace this process. Also, if a card moves out of the Coding column without unit tests, then anyone on the team involved in the next column can easily push back on the card without debating the issue and simply pointing to the missed explicit agreement. This creates higher levels of accountability and the team can easily self-govern their process.

We mention unit tests as one of the most common example for software development teams seeking to improve their quality. The most crucial and first level of testing should be unit tests. Many teams know very well the importance of unit testing but somehow continue to skip it. This usually happens when the team feels under pressure or when a team member has not been properly trained on the art of unit testing.

Once the explicit agreement is written, it must be enforced. If not, then it defeats the entire concept of having explicit agreements. The fastest and most effective way to start doing unit tests is to have an explicit agreement!

Visualizing Explicit Agreements

In Kanban Zone, it’s very simple for a board administrator to capture explicit agreements by using the board editor. In the screenshot below, each column offers a rich text editor to capture agreements.

editing explicit agreements Code column - Kanban Zone

Once the board has been updated with the explicit agreements, all board members can see these clearly at the top of the column.

explicit agreement Code column - Kanban Zone

Yes, it’s that simple.

Don’t forget that building an effective Kanban board requires to embrace the five core properties in Kanban.

  1. Visualizing Workflow
  2. Limit Work in Progress
  3. Measure and Manage Flow
  4. Making Explicit Process Policies
  5. Process Improvement with Kanban

We hope that this article has provided everything you need to add or improve your explicit agreements on your Kanban board. For detailed step by step instructions to set up explicit agreements, please read this knowledge base article.

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About the Author: Dimitri Ponomareff

Kanban Coach Dimitri Ponomareff
Dimitri Ponomareff is a Coach. Transforming organizations to deliver value faster since 2005, using Agile, Scrum/XP first, and then blending Lean and Kanban. Dimitri has the ability to relate and energize people. He is consistently recognized as a very passionate and successful change agent, with an overwhelming capacity to motivate and mobilize teams on their path to continuous improvements.

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