Pull principle in Jira Kanban boards

#kanban  #process  #agile  #jira  #tools 

One of the principles of Kanban is to pull work, instead of pushing it to the next process step. I have written about how we have implemented the pull principle in Jira boards in 2016 and 2017 (both German). This post summarizes our current implementation in English for those who don’t speak German.

If Kanban is used in software development, one of the practices is the pull principle. This means that a team member only pulls a new work item into her column after she has finished working on the current one. When the work for the item is finished, she just marks it as “Done” but leaves it in the current column. Another team member then pulls the item into the next step whenever she has time to do so. This should result in a sustainable pace thus protect against overload/burn-outs.

Jira Software ships with Kanban boards, but their functionality is rather limited. One of those missing features is a way to mark issues as “Done” or “Ready to pull”. Here at karriere.at we use the following configuration to emulate the practice:

Step 1: Define custom status values

First, we have modified the Jira workflow and added corresponding done-statuses for all of our current status values which belong to the status category “In Progress”. For example, if you have a status “Code Review” you would create additional statuses “Code Review (Done)”.

Kanban status values in Jira

Step 2: Add new statuses to the board

After creating the new statuses, you also have to make them available in the Kanban board. Open the board configuration and add the new status values to the existing columns. So for example the column “Code Review” consists of the status values “Code Review” and “Code Review (Done)”.

Statuses mapped to columns in a Jira Kanban board

Step 3: Visualize issues that are ready to pull

Now, while still in the board configuration, switch to the card colours settings. Change the first setting, so that card colours are determinated by queries and then add a rule that adds a green border color to all tickets which have a done-status.

Card colours configuration for visualizing pullable items

Bonus tip: If you use the same status values in multiple boards you can create a saved filter with the query and reference it in the color rule instead of the hardcoded query itself (filter=”Name of your filter”). So if you decide to add a new status in the future you only have to add it once to the saved filter and it is immediately used in all boards. Make sure, that all users have access rights to the saved filter, otherwise it won’t work.

How to use the board

With the configuration as described above, team members now follow these steps when using the board:

  1. When one of the team starts working on a new item, she pull the issue into the next column and drops it on the doing-status (for example “Code Review”)
  2. Afer she is done, she changes the status of the issue to the corresponding done-status (for example “Code Review (Done)”). The issue stays in the same column, but now has a green border that signals, that it can be pulled into the next step whenever someone of the team is ready to do new work.

Sadly step 2 can’t be done by drag and drop, because this would only change the issue rank within the column. You have to use the workflow dropdown menu or use the quick action menu by pressing “.” on the keyboard.

Jira Kanban board with items that are ready to be pulled


Michael is an internal Agile Coach at karriere.at, When not thinking about better processes he likes to ride his motorcycle or practices Tai Chi.

We're a team of makers, thinkers, organisers and digital explorers and we're always on the lookout for talented people.

Are you a good fit?