Kanban is a lean method to manage and improve work across human systems. This approach aims to manage work by balancing the demands with available capacity, and improving the handling of system level bottlenecks.
Work items are visualized to give participants a view of progress and process, from start to finish usually via a Kanban board. Work is pulled as capacity allows, rather than work being pushed into the process whenever it’s requested.
In knowledge work and software development, this provides a visual process management system which aids decision-making about what, when and how much to produce. Although the underlying Kanban method originated in lean manufacturing it is used mainly for software and technology development work. However Kanban can be applied to any area of work, and it can even be combined with other methods or frameworks such as Scrum, giving origin to Scrumban.
Kanban is a method to organize work and workflow with the aid of a kanban board. It advises limiting work in progress, which reduces waste from multitasking and context switching, exposes operational problems and stimulates collaboration to improve the system. Kanban is based in two sets of principles, for change management and service delivery, which emphasize evolutionary change and customer focus. The method does not prescribe a specific set of steps, but starts from existing context and stimulates continuous, incremental and evolutionary changes to the system. It aims to minimize resistance to change to facilitate it.
Kanban focuses on the customer and work which meets their needs, rather than individuals’ activities. Kanban has six general practices:
- Limiting work in progress,
- Flow management,
- Making policies explicit,
- Using feedback loops,
- Collaborative or experimental evolution.
They involve seeing the work and its process and improving the process, keeping and amplifying useful changes and learning from, reversing and damping the ineffective.
A Kanban board is one of the tools that can be used to implement Kanban to manage work at the personal or organizational level.
Kanban boards show how work moves from left to right, each column representing a stage of the overall process, or to be more precise, the system that is visualized by the board. The team pulls cards from one column to another to the right to show progress, and to coordinate their efforts with others.
At its simplest, boards are usually divided into “waiting”, “work in progress” and “completed work”. Complex Kanban boards can be created to visualize the flow of work across a whole value stream map.
Kanban can be used to organize many areas of an organization and can be designed accordingly. The simplest kanban board consists of three columns: “to-do”, “in progress” and “done”, while some additional detail such as WiP limits are needed to fully support the Kanban method. Business functions that use kanban boards include:
• Kanban board for software development team. A popular example of a Kanban board for agile or lean software development consists of the columns:
It is also a common practice to name columns in a different way, for example: Next, In Development, Done, Customer Acceptance, Live.
• Kanban for marketing teams;
• Kanban for Human Resources teams;
• Organizational strategy and executive leadership teams;
• Personal task management;
• Audit teams.