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Favro board with many cards in each column

Many of the customers I’ve visited and spent time with online have run into the problem of too many cards on a single board.

Too many cards on your Favro boards?

Many of the customers I’ve visited and spent time with online have run into the problem of too many cards on a single board. This becomes overwhelming, making daily stand-ups and other team meetings difficult. It also flies in the face of one of the primary benefits of board-based planning and collaboration systems: visualizing work in progress. If there are too many items on a board, whether it be virtual or physical, a Scrum board, Kanban board or any other type of workflow board, your team is no longer able to effectively see, manage and complete the work that needs to be done, which is the whole point.

Here is some best practice advice, along with some Favro specific tips and tricks to help you and your team reduce the number of cards on any Favro board.

Keep teams small

This first best practice might seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Split large teams into multiple smaller teams. Fewer team members working from the same board will result in fewer cards on the board. And, there’s a much larger benefit to reduced team sizes: small teams outperform large teams. The general rule of thumb when it comes to team size is 7 +/- 3, which means your teams should never be larger than 10 people. This reduces the number of communication channels and increases team focus. Plus, you’ll naturally have fewer cards on your team board.

Limit Work in Progress

Another piece of best practice advice is to limit work in progress. Instead of filling up a board with everything you want to deliver over a long period of time, concentrate on the highest priority and most valuable things you want to deliver over a shorter period of time. Starting too many things inevitably leads to lots of stops and starts, task switching and an overall lack of focus. Reduce your work in progress. You’ll be able to finish and deliver value faster, with the side benefit of a less cluttered team board.

To help control the amount of work in progress at all stages of your workflow enable Favro’s WIP Limit app on your team’s board.

Set WIP limits on board columns
Set WIP limits on board columns

Structure work in backlogs

More specific to Favro, but keeping in mind the concept of limited work in progress, take advantage of backlogs. Backlogs should be the containers for all of the value your team wants to deliver long term, allowing boards to be used only for the things that are currently being worked on. This will further help control the number of cards on a board at any one time.

By using Favro’s backlog tree view, future value can be organized any way you like. One of the most powerful ways to utilize this capability is to think about large things (client projects, epics, etc.) being broken down into smaller things (specific project deliverables, user stories, etc.). This has many benefits, including a logically organized backlog of all the things you want to do in the future and smaller pieces of value that can be delivered faster.

Store future deliverables in a structured backlog
Store future deliverables in a structured backlog

Track long term and short term separately

Building on backlog structure, here’s a neat trick that will help your organization visualize work on different levels of granularity. If you have your backlog structured from large broken down to small, then create two separate boards one to track long term, big-picture goals and another to track the day to day deliverables and possibly even tasks. As seen in the screenshot below, feed the long term roadmap board with your parent backlog items and the short term board with your child backlog items. Make sure to keep the cards in both the board and the backlog.

Track parent backlog items long term and child backlog items short term on different boards
Track parent backlog items (long term) and child backlog items (short term) on different boards

Now, team members doing the work can focus on finishing the actual deliverables, while project managers can track progress at a higher level. By activating the “Boards” column in your tree view backlog, producers/project managers can see the progress of child items and move the higher level parent items accordingly.

Monitor child backlog item status from the backlog so you know when to move the parent items on their board
Monitor child backlog item status from the backlog so you know when to move the parent items on their board

Archive completed cards

On any board, when a card is done, it’s a good idea to archive the card. Completed cards can be archived daily or at the end of specific time-boxed iterations or Sprints. Cards can be archived via the card’s Archive button, by mousing over the card and pressing “C” or selecting multiple cards by Alt-Clicking them and clicking the batch archive button. Archived cards can always be viewed by clicking on the board’s menu and selecting Show > Show archived cards.

archiving cards in favro

Filter boards instantly

If all else fails and you still tend to end up with too many cards on a board there are always board filters. From the board’s menu select “Filter cards” or type “F”. Boards can then be filtered by team members, tags or any other criteria. Favorite filters can even be saved for future use.

low clutter team board in favro

Reduced Clutter = Greater Productivity

By utilizing these best practices, tips, and tricks, your boards will be cleaner. A less cluttered board will be more manageable, enable proper visualization of work in progress and improve overall team performance.

Achieve organizational flow with Favro.

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