Kanban is a system that was developed by Toyota to streamline and manage its manufacturing process. It was then updated in recent years and used in software development. However, with the spread of lean start-ups, Kanban is getting employed by all business departments including HR and marketing. The core concepts of Kanban are:
- Make the workflow visible
- Limit the work in progress
- Continues Improvement
- Make Process Policies Explicit
The model that is commonly used these days in the industry has borrowed few concepts and ceremonies from Scrum.
- Daily standups
- Self-managing teams
- Servant leadership
- Kanban master
Make the workflow visible:
Making the workflow visible makes it easier to communicate within the team, it makes it easier see the progress and also see what work is coming from upstream. It also highlights any bottlenecks quickly and giving the team early indication to optimise the workflow. Scrum has borrowed this concept of Kanban.
Limit the work in progress:
Waste is a major issue in manufacturing but it also easily visible as well. This issue however within knowledge worker teams isn’t that easily visible. In manufacturing, if Toyota had 5000 engine sitting in the warehouse for six months then hopefully someone would notice. Its material, effort and quite a lot of money sitting around for six months. However, with knowledge workers it difficult to see unfinished work sitting on someone’s hard drive and time, effort and money that is going to waste.
Kanban does not prescribe a definite time or stage when you should hold a Retrospective meeting as Scrum does, but some Kanban teams still set a regular retrospective meetings. With Kanban, Blockers and Bottlenecks become visible, and this gives a great opportunity to improve things regularly. When you see a bottleneck, it’s an opportunity to improve process there and then rather than wait until the retrospective meeting. Kanban also suggests that you should regularly run small experiments with an aim to improve your process and product. If the test is successful, then you adopt it but if it didn’t work then go back to how things were.
Make Process Policies Explicit:
The same way that we need road signs posted to make traffic follow smoothly and make the roads safe for pedestrians. Kanban suggested that policies relating to work are explicit and visible so that everyone understands them and follow them. By the process Policies, we don’t mean the HR employee handbook but the policies agreed by the whole team has how things will be done.
Kanban Reading martial:
- 1: Youtube Video: Agile Project Management with Kanban: Eric Brechner Presentation
- 2: Book: The Scrumban [r]evolution: getting the most out of Agile, Scrum, and Lean Kanban.
- 3: Book: Agile project management with Kanban.