workstyle · Mar 17, 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Kanban Swimlanes for Better Project Management

Kanban Swimlane

The hot season is coming and you are more than ready to jump into the pool to enjoy the summertime happiness and the sunkissed glow! Though we’re also very excited for the flip-flops season, today we’re gonna to let you know about a type of Swimlanes. It’s not the kind that lets you slide right into a swimming pool, instead if you master the use of Kanban Swimlanes, you can actually enjoy your summer in peace knowing everything is under control and your projects are going in the right track.

What is Kanban Swimlanes?

Kanban board is a productivity method that takes advantage of the limited work-in-progress (WIP). By laying out a limited number of tasks into columns, Kanban board helps you visualize the workflow in a short period of time. At the very basic level, Kanban board lets you have three columns that include many “sticky notes” within each column.

  • To Do
  • Doing
  • Completed

When you are working on your tasks with a Kanban board, chances are you will move the tasks around and use different ways to best visualize your workflow. So when you decide to split your original columns into different parallel lanes that represent some unique project milestones or workload, you are creating Kanban Swimlanes.


Source: Giphy

Kanban board and Swimlanes are very popular in agile project management because they force teams to prioritize and concentrate on the right tasks at the right time. Imagine choosing some crucial tasks from your ever-growing task list and drag to a Kanban board, now those tasks are beautifully laid out in the form of sticky notes with the status attached to. You can measure and make an estimated guess on the tasks progress at a glance.

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How can your productivity be benefited by the Swimlanes?

1. Visualize tasks based on the priority level

Kanban Swimlane sort by date

When you sort your Kanban board by priority, you have created Kanban Swimlanes with the tasks based on their priorities. The most urgent tasks will be put in the top of the list, which indicates that your team must concentrate and give full devotion to those tasks. The highest priority tasks are also divided into different columns, based on the working statuses. With this new layout, you can now visualize your next coming steps and highlight what tasks need to be completed first.

2. Balancing team allocation effectively

Kanban Swimlane team allocation

Depending on the nature of your project and the size of the team, workload allocation is a crucial step to manage team productivity. Different team members play different roles in the team, therefore, a manager should create a Kanban Swimlane by sorting the task list by assignees to have the overview of the entire work process.

In the above example, you can tell Brent has to work on a lot of tasks, whilst Beverly has only one task. Obviously, as a team leader, you would have to balance out the workload between team members to improve the team productivity.

3. Managing tasks based on the users’ stories or phases

Kanban Swimlane users' stories

You can utilize the Kanban board by using the tags to sort your tasks. By separating the tasks based on each tag, you can measure the workload for each tag by looking at the swimlanes.

For example, your team is working on the tasks for several different phases, you can create a specific tag for each phase then sort the tasks by the newly created tags. By creating the swimlanes for each tag, you decide which phase that needs to pay extra attention to. Kanban Board and Kanban Swimlanes are the future of productivity

Many agile project management experts have praised how a physical board and sticky notes have changed their work life. However, this low-tech approach only works if your team is working in the same building everyday. As many global companies decided to embrace the remote working culture, managers need to find a way to help teams envision their work process even when everyone is working with completely different time zones!


Source: Giphy

A cloud-based Kanban board lets your team quickly visualize what they have to pay attention to for the next couple weeks. With the Swimlanes, every task is laid out neatly with all of the visual elements put in parallel, team productivity is transparent and each team member can get an extra boost to organize their own tasks or make adjustments if necessary.

Has your team tried to deploy Kanban Board and Kanban Swimlanes into the team working process yet? Let us know in the comment section below or tweet us at @quire_io! We can’t wait to learn more about your successful stories!

Vicky Pham
Trying not to get lost in the city lights.