A popular workflow management method, Kanban (roughly translated as “card you can see”) is an Agile framework designed to manage the creation of products, highlighting continual delivery without overburdening the development team. It helps the team to harness the power of visual information by using sticky notes on a whiteboard to create a “picture” of their work.
The concept was first developed by Taiichi Ohno (Industrial Engineer and Businessman) in the late 1940s for Toyota automotive in Japan to overhaul its assembly and production system. It aims to optimally control and manage work and inventory at every stage of production.
One key reason it was developed because Toyota had inadequate productivity and efficiency compared to its American automotive rivals.
In utilizing the Kanban system, the Japanese automotive company achieved a flexible and more efficient “just in time” production control system with an increase in productivity, dramatically reducing cost-intensive inventory of raw materials, semi-finished materials, and finished products.
NOTE: Not to confuse with Lean, Kanban is aimed not at eliminating wastes but at optimizing the manufacturing process by regulating the supply of raw material.
Source: Zege Technologies
Kanban methodology emphasizes on balancing tasks demands with available capacity. It streamlines visual representation of workflow through a Kanban board that is known to be much effective than the simplest to-do list, for the reason that the human brain can process visuals better than any other data.
A basic Kanban board uses three columns known as lanes: To Do, Doing, and Done, but teams may decide to add more columns. This board can usually be realized through utilizing colored sticky notes on a whiteboard. The color-coded sticky notes indicate priorities, assignees, or any other information vital to the project.
Kanban: An Introduction
Kanban usually requires real-time communication of capacity and full transparency of work through a Kanban board to allow team members to monitor and see the state of every piece of work at every stage.
It works on three (3) basic principles:
- Visualization. A Kanban board serves as an informative board to see descriptive items in series of available tasks and show their relationship to each other.
- Limited amount of Work-In-Progress(WIP). This principle helps balancing the flow-based approach so teams only commit to a new task once an existing task is completed.
- Flow. Being Kanban’s core concept, this principle simply means that when something is finished, the next highest thing from the backlog is then pulled into play. Promoting collaboration continuously, Kanban encourages active, ongoing learning and improving by defining the best possible team workflow.
- Visibility. In terms of real-time status information, Kanban empowers project managers to effortlessly see everything they need to manage initiatives in one place in real-time rather than synthesizing information across countless sources.
- More added value. With the visibility that the Kanban board provides, it lets project managers to keep the work moving, and immediately see if certain issues occur. Thus, providing more value to their teams, by removing any blockage in the flow of progress in initiatives you manage.
- Continuous improvement. Through this concept, teams get to have the concept of continuous improvement because through shared visibility in how to get things done, project managers and their teams to work together to improve the process in delivering maximum value.
- Improved communication among stakeholders. Through shared visibility, Kanban allows project managers to better communicate with key stakeholders by providing a bird’s-eye view of strategic initiatives to executives and other stakeholders for a clearer understanding. With a clear understanding of how work flows through the organization, stakeholders can make strategically smart decisions in behalf of the company.
Kanban is a popular workflow management method designed to give teams the visibility to deliver work on time, on budget, and on value. The concept is realized through using sticky notes on a whiteboard to create a “picture” of their work.
It works on three principles, namely Visualization, limited amount of Work-In-Progress (WIP), and Flow.
The management method is beneficial because it is visible, gives teams an added value, encourages continuous improvement, and better communication with stakeholders.
If you enjoy reading about software development methodologies, let’s take a look at other blog posts.
By Tuan Nguyen