5 Core Kanban Principles

by Josh Biggs in Tips on 4th November 2020

Kanban is a wide-spread approach to implement Agile software development. It involves real-time performance discussion and complete workflows transparency.

With a constant multitasking mode, as well as a large number of orders, any system can become overloaded. At the same time, deadlines are missed and expectations are not met. In such a situation, the Kanban methodology helps to allocate resources effectively and solve many pressing problems. All work stages are represented in the visual form on a Kanban board, which allows team members to see the status of each task at any given time.

Fun fact: In Japan, advertising in front of shops is called Kambans. This is how Japanese traders show that the shop is open and what they sell. Kanban has become an erroneous transcription of the Latin notation of the Japanese word. The Kanban system was developed and first implemented by Toyota.

The Kanban board is the main methodology tool. It displays the status of a particular task. So you can estimate at what production stage it is now. Thus, gaps are always visible and it is possible to correct them. The “start with what you are doing now” approach involves the evolutionary implementation of change. A multi-step process is extremely difficult to revolutionize. Soft changes are much easier to implement and have immediate results.

Let’s consider the basic Kanban principles:

  1. Visualization. The tasks are displayed as cards on the board. It is important to constantly update the status of the tasks so that anyone involved in a project can see the task status at any second.
  1. The limited number of “work in progress” tasks at each production step. To prevent the system from breaking down from a large number of tasks, it makes sense to set restrictions that are selected empirically.

Another example of a Kanban system is in the Japanese imperial garden. Here, kanbans (cards) are used in the form of tickets, which limit the number of visitors on cherry blossom days. This is done so that large crowds do not gather and people do not interfere with each other’s enjoyment of nature.

  1. Focus on unfinished tasks. When evaluating the board with tasks, it is worth paying attention to those items that are “frozen” on a Kanban Board. If a certain stage takes more time, it is worth considering reallocating resources or adding employees when possible.
  1. Continuous striving for improvement. If the system is balanced, it is easier to observe the whole process. Control cycle times, adjust loads and reduce time to go through stages.
  1. Maximum attention to detail. For example, the programming code regularly does not pass testing. It is most likely worth considering improving the development quality so that a higher quality product would be passed to the testing stage.

Thus, Kanban boards can be introduced in any company of any size. An example is Toyota, where the methodology originates. Not the company’s scope or its size is the limit but the desire of management and staff to a new way of work.

Kanban is effective not only in companies or their departments. You can start with yourself if you are a freelancer or self-employed. Make a personal board and navigate through it in performing personal work tasks.

Categories: Tips