Kanban, which literally translates to “visual signal” in Japanese, is a method for managing your work in progress (WIP). It helps you to visualise your work, maintain a healthy volume of WIP and ensure a smooth, steady flow of work.
Kanban boards are physical or digital tools that give you a quick view of how long it takes to deliver features and how long they take to complete. These boards help you to easily spot bottlenecks and make adjustments as needed. You can also see where there are too many items being worked on at once.
- Start with what you are doing now – As you don’t need to change your existing workflow, Kanban is easy to implement.
- Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change – Processes can evolve gradually over time causing less disruption to teams and performance.
- Respect the current process, roles, and responsibilities – There is no need to make immediate changes to processes, roles, and responsibilities. Kanban encourages incremental change.
- Encourage acts of leadership at all levels – Kanban promotes leadership and decision making at all levels.
Origins of Kanban
Kanban was developed by Toyota engineers in the 1950s to manage the flow of parts through their production system.
In 1978, Taiichi Ohno published “Toyota Production System – Beyond Large-Scale Production” describing the principles of ‘Just in Time’ and ‘Lean Manufacturing’.
The method was later adapted by David Anderson in 2004 developed a pull system for Microsoft, which functions as a virtual Kanban system. Over the next few years, Anderson and his team refine the method introducing features such as the Kanban board and WIP limits.
Kanban’s popularity has steadily grown, not only among Agile and Scrum practitioners but in a variety of industries.
Above all, Agile is about focusing on the customer in the most streamlined way possible. Fundamental goals are established at the outset of a project but can be adjusted incrementally as problems or concerns reveal themselves through the real work of a dedicated team.
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