Column States

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Column States

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All columns that contain cards on a board in Kanban Zone must be associated with one of the 5 available column states:

  • To Do – use this state to start your process. Cards in this column, are not yet Work In Progress (WIP) and therefore do not factor in your cycle time.
  • In Progress – use this state to identify Work In Progress (WIP). Cards in this column will be included in your cycle time.
  • Done – use this state to end your process. Cards in this column will immediately count towards your throughput.
  • Buffer – use this state to prevent cards from being pushed to the next column. Cards being queued in this column can be pulled into the next column to improve your flow.
  • None – use this state when you want to exclude cards from the process and analytics.

Because you can create complex boards with nested columns that can be named anything you want, these column states are used in analytics and reports to track cards based on one of these states.

1. Click Options and navigate to Board Editor

2. Within the board editor, all card columns shown as grey containers will have the state dropdown.

Board Editor - 5 column states

In the screenshot above the column is called Done and the state selected for that column is Done.

When adding a new board in Kanban Zone, all new boards must be created from a board template and all these templates already have the column states set up for the board. As you modify your board, you will notice that depending on where you add or move a column on the board, the column state may get updated automatically. This is because the columns must follow a specific sequence of To Do > In Progress > Done. The Buffer and None state can be set anywhere on the board, but the other 3 states must be sequential.

If you have a board with 5 columns (or a container with 5 nested columns), you can use these sequences:

  • To Do > In Progress > In Progress > In Progress > Done
  • To Do > To Do > In Progress > In Progress > Done
  • To Do > To Do > To Do > In Progress > Done
  • To Do > In Progress > In Progress > Done > Done
  • To Do > In Progress > Done > Done > Done

For example, you can’t use “In Progress > To Do > Done > To Do > In Progress” because To Do must always be the state of the first column and Done the state of the last column.

If you need to create a board where you have a first process flow of “To Do > In Progress > Done” and you need to have a subsequent process that also goes “To Do > In Progress > Done”, then you will need to use a horizontal container that holds “To Do > In Progress > Done” followed by 3 columns of “To Do > In Progress > Done”


Or, you can also use two horizontal containers.


We mention using a horizontal container in this example, but you could also use a vertical container. These horizontal and vertical permits you to create complex boards and also nest containers, but more importantly, for the purpose of column states, these containers can reset the sequence of the column state within each container. It’s what some clients call “building boards within a board“.

Lastly, one of the best examples of using these column states can be seen in the Flow report.

Flow Report

As you can see in the Flow report shown above, the 4 column states (To Do, In Progress, Done, None) are used to visualize this report. The Backlog label in the report is a special column that can’t be managed in board editor, so it’s shown as Backlog. The Cancelled label is not a column state, it corresponds to any card that got archived but never touched a Done state column.

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