What is Kanban? Explained in 10 Minutes

In this post I am going to cover “What is Kanban? Explained in 10 Minutes.” This is a great Beginner’s Guide to learn what Kanban is and where to get started.

Delivering work in a quick and efficient way can be a real challenge. The Kanban Method suggests an approach of managing the flow of work with an emphasis on continuous improvement without overburdening the team that focuses on productivity and efficiency.

“Also known as the alternative path to Business Agility”


Who hasn’t seen one of these sticky note walls in an office? 🤷🏻‍♂️🤷‍♀️

Sticky Notes Wall of Fame

Well let’s be honest I am hoping they look a bit more organized. Let me ask you: When you walked by one of these walls for the first time. Didn’t you ever thought: “What the hell is this team doing? or “How will this improve anything for the team?” No worries, when I saw this kind of sticky note wall at my first job I had exactly the same questions. These days I know better what Kanban and Visualizing Work is all about! Let me help you to understand.

Kanban was initially invented as a way of managing Just in Time (JIT) manufacturing processes. The next chapter in Kanban’s history introduced new principles and practices to make it more efficient for knowledge workers.

It is a method designed to help you optimize workflow and use your team’s full capacity. In this article, we will discuss what is the Kanban Method.

The Kanban Method Fundamentals

Kanban Principles

The Kanban Method is a pull system. A pull system means that work is being pulled into the system when the team has room, in other words capacity for it, rather than having work activities (tasks) being assigned from the top. Kanban can be used to improve processes and workflow efficiency without making any changes to your team structure.

Before you continue using the Kanban Method in your business, it is really critical to understand and adopt the fundamental principles for change management:

  1. Start with what you are doing now – Kanban doesn’t require a particular setup and can be applied directly to your current workflow. This makes it easy to implement since there is no need to change your existing processes. The benefits of Kanban are gradual, and any process improvement is adopted over time.
  2. Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change – Sweeping changes can unsettle teams, disrupt flow and damage performance. Kanban is designed to incur minimal resistance by encouraging continuous, incremental and evolutionary changes.
  3. Encourage acts of leadership at all levels – Kanban promotes leadership and decision making between all members. If the lowest-ranked team member has a bright idea, it should be acknowledged and embraced. Everyone should be a fostering a mindset of continuous improvement (Kaizen) – in order for your workers to reach optimal performance.


Kanban Practices

Although adopting the Kanban philosophy is the most important step, there are six core practices you need to understand and observe for a successful Kanban implementing in your business.

  1. Visualize Workflow – The first and most important task is to understand the current flow of work – what is the sequence of steps to execute in order to move an item from request to a deliverable product. This is done using a Kanban board with cards and columns: each column represents a step in your workflow, and each card represents a work item. Every item moves through the flow from start to end. By observing this process, you can easily track progress and identify bottlenecks in real-time.
  2. Limit Work in Progress (WIP) – Loss of focus can seriously harm your team’s performance, so this practice centers around eliminating interruptions by setting limits on the work in progress. By applying limits to WIP, teams focus on finishing outstanding work before starting new work. Limiting WIP is critical for the successful implementation of Kanban.
  3. Manage Flow – By observing and analyzing flow efficiency, you can identify any problem areas. The main goal of implementing Kanban is to create a smooth workflow by improving the lead times and avoiding delays. You should always strive to make your process more efficient.
  4. Make Policies Explicit – The process should be clearly defined, published, and confirmed for everyone in the team: people won’t feel motivated to be part of something unless they think it will be useful. When everyone is aware of the explicit policies, each person can suggest improvements that will improve your performance.
  5. Feedback Loops – In order for the positive change to occur, regular meetings are necessary to provide essential feedback to the entire team. The frequency of these meetings varies, but the idea is that they are regular, at a fixed time, and that they get straight to the point.
  6. Improve & Evolve – Kanban requires constant evaluation, analysis, and improvement. When teams have a shared understanding of the process, they are more likely to reach a consensus should any problems arise. The Kanban Method suggests that various models of scientific approach are used to implement continuous, incremental, and evolutionary changes.


Remember the Sticky Note Wall?

If you implement Kanban with the Core Principles & Practices, your Sticky Note Wall in other words your Way of Working, will be improved. A Kanban Board isn’t just some sticky notes on a wall and I hope it makes more sense to you! 👨🏻‍🏫


Which Projects Benefit Most from Kanban

Kanban is likely to be a good method for your team if your project meets some or all of the following criteria: 

  • Your workflows essentially function but could be smoother and more efficient.
  • You are experiencing backlogs of stalled work.
  • Your organization prefers to improve existing processes incrementally rather than imposing a radical new system, that might increase resistance.
  • Your team’s priorities can change on a short notice and therefor you need to shift more easily.
  • The top priority is being responsive to customer needs.

Learn How to get started with the Kanban Method.

We provide Kanban Training Classes on different experience levels, including worldwide recognized Certifications and accredited by the Kanban University. If you want to learn more on what Kanban Training Fits best for You? Continue reading here

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