Kanban is a visual method for managing and processing work. Kanban is all about visualizing your work, limiting work in progress, and maximizing efficiency (or flow). Kanban teams focus on reducing the time it takes to take a project (or user story) from start to finish.
The kanban framework originated in a Toyota factory and was made popular by agile software development teams thanks to its flexibility and ability to allow teams to work faster and more efficiently.
The core principles of kanban are applicable to almost any industry, so it makes sense that the methodology is gaining popularity among all types of agile teams like marketing, sales, recruiting and even operations.
Kanban is a workflow management method designed to help you visualize your work, maximize efficiency and be agile. From Japanese, kanban is literally translated as billboard or signboard. Originating from manufacturing, it later became a territory claimed by agile software development teams. Recently, it started getting recognized by business units across various areas.
As more and more people hear about Kanban, there often are misinterpretations. So what is Kanban? Here are the most important things you need to know about it from its creation till today.
Initially, it arose a scheduling system for lean manufacturing, originating from the Toyota Production System (TPS). In the late 1940s, Toyota introduced “just in time” manufacturing to their production. The approach represents a pull system. This means that production is based on customer demand, rather than the standard push practice to produce amounts of goods and pushing them to the market.
Their unique production system laid the foundation of Lean manufacturing or simply Lean. Its core purpose is minimizing waste activities without sacrificing productivity. The main goal is to create more value for the customer without generating more costs.
The Kanban Method
At the beginning of the 21st Century, key players within the software industry quickly realized how Kanban could be used to positively change the ways in which products and services were delivered.
With an increased focus on efficiency, and by harnessing advances in computing technology, Kanban left the realm of the automotive industry and was successfully applied to other complex commercial sectors such as IT, software development, marketing and so on.
Indeed, what we now recognize as the Kanban Method with all core elements emerged at the beginning of 2007.
The simplest Kanban board may start with three columns – “Requested”, “In Progress” and “Done”. When constructed, managed and functioning properly, it serves as a real-time information repository, highlighting bottlenecks within the system and anything else which might get in the way of smooth working practices.
The 4 Core Principles of Kanban
David J. Anderson (a pioneer in the field of Lean/ Kanban for knowledge work) has formulated the Kanban method as an approach to incremental, evolutionary process and systems change for knowledge work organizations. It is focused on getting things done and the most important principles can be broken down into four basic principles and six practices.
Principle 1: Start With What You Do Now
Kanban’s flexibility allows it to be overlaid on existing workflows, systems and processes without disrupting what is already successfully being done; it will, naturally, highlight issues that need to be addressed and help to assess and plan changes so their implementation is as non-disruptive as possible.
Kanban’s versatility allows it to be introduced incrementally, and sympathetically, to all types of organization without fear of over-commitment or ‘culture shock’. This makes Kanban easy to implement in any type of organization as there is no need for you to make sweeping changes right from the start.
Principle 2: Agree to Pursue Incremental, Evolutionary Change
The Kanban methodology is designed to meet minimal resistance and thus encourages continuous small incremental and evolutionary changes to the current process. In general, sweeping changes are discouraged because they usually encounter resistance due to fear or uncertainty.
Principle 3: Respect the Current Process, Roles & Responsibilities
Kanban recognizes that existing processes, roles, responsibilities, and titles have value and are, generally, worth preserving. The Kanban method does not prohibit change, but neither does it prescribe it as a ‘universal panacea’. It is designed to promote and encourage incremental, logical, changes without triggering a fear of change itself.
Principle 4: Encourage Acts of Leadership at All Levels
This is the newest Kanban principle. It reminds you that some of the best leadership comes from everyday acts of people on the front line of their teams. It is important that everyone fosters a mindset of continuous improvement (Kaizen) in order to reach optimal performance on a team/department/company level. This can’t be a management level activity.
Note: Much of this info came from the Kanbanize site and the Trello blog. Thanks!