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Work Management for Teams

A Look into Program-level Kanban Design

Published By Maria Harper

Up until now, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at how a well-planned Kanban design can empower IT Operations, making it easier for team members to complete tasks within their agreed-upon timeframes. As such, Kanban has proven itself to be an invaluable tool for team-based project management, giving managers more control over resources and capacity within their teams.

But how does Kanban handle larger projects that require participation from multiple teams and department managers? In this post, we’re going to look at how to scale your Kanban design beyond your IT Operations team so that you can collaborate with everyone across your enterprise organization.

Best of all, rolling out an organization-wide Kanban design isn’t as daunting as you think. In fact, with a little planning and preparation, you can create a scalable Kanban board that optimizes productivity across all departments.


There are a number of benefits that come with creating a program-level Kanban board for your organization, such as:

  • Providing stakeholders, managers, and team members with a big picture of how their sub-projects fit into the goals and business objectives.
  • Boosting cross-department collaboration by encouraging teams to share information and work together to achieve a shared goal.
  • Preventing departmental silos from forming by showing teams how their work is necessary for empowering teams in other departments.

Great for strengthening relationships between departments, a program-level Kanban board also helps teams think more about how their actions benefit the company as a whole. As a result, teams aren’t driven purely by their own goals, but rather the goals of the entire organization.


Now that we’ve covered the benefits of a program-level Kanban board, there’s one major pain point to overcome to ensure your projects run smoothly: Your Kanban design.

When working on big company-wide projects, it’s important to keep your Kanban board organized at all times. The good news is that Kanban makes it easy to organize your workflow across departments so that different types of work are seamlessly integrated into your board in a way that’s digestible and easy to understand. One way you can achieve this is by color coding your Kanban cards based on their type of work.

For example, you could create a Kanban design that assigns:

  • Light green cards for all tasks related to the A3 process.
  • Dark green cards for work designed to generate revenue, like upgraded features and other initiatives driven by sales and marketing departments.
  • Orange cards for revenue-protection work designed to maintain stability and reliability.
  • Red cards for all major cross-functional initiatives.

Creating an organized, color-coded workflow makes it easier for you to track resources, tasks, and capacity across departments within your organization. This reduces the likelihood of tasks becoming lost in your stream of work (provided you use WIP limits to minimize works-in-progress), making it easier to prioritize and delegate tasks to multiple teams at once. Of course, you may need to modify your Kanban design so that it works best with your organization’s unique goals and limitations.


The beauty of Kanban lies in its ability to accommodate different types of work into one, easy-to-use project roadmap. This degree of flexibility makes it easy for organizations to create large cross-department initiatives, so that all departments are able to combine their skills and expertise in a way that pushes the company forward.

What’s more, Kanban brings additional transparency to the workflow, even when working on largescale, program-level projects. This makes it easier for managers to see which assignments are stuck or causing bottlenecks, and how those struggling assignments are affecting other ongoing tasks in the workflow. Not only does this immediately alert managers where problems are forming, program-level boards offer big-picture insights into these road bumps, which is valuable for coming up with innovative and effective solutions.

The other major benefit that comes from implementing an organization-wide Kanban board is that Kanban helps prevent departmental silos from forming. This is because Kanban, even at the program level, maintains an open channel of communication between all departments involved. Combine that with the added layer of transparency associated with Kanban and you’ve got a recipe for collaboration, where teams stop striving to achieve departmental goals and start working together to benefit the organization as a whole.


There’s no hidden secret to making a program-level Kanban board that works. All you need is good project management and organizational skills as well as an open-door policy that promotes cross-departmental communication. With those elements in place, you’ll be well on your way to creating a Kanban design that works for everyone in your organization, which is the first step towards ensuring that all teams are on the same page.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can scale your Kanban board for IT Operations and beyond, download our eBook, “Using Kanban for IT Operations,” which goes into further detail on how IT Operations teams can counterbalance demand and capacity through Kanban.

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Written by Maria Harper Manager, Demand Generation

Maria Harper is a demand generation specialist at Planview focusing on PPM solutions and French and German marketing. She is passionate about data-driven marketing and enjoys applying analytical insights to creative messaging in order maximize marketing potential. She graduated from the University of Missouri with bachelor degrees in German and Journalism.