Kanban Methodology

Kanban is a methodology that originated in the Japanese manufacturing sector, specifically from Toyota’s production system, as a system to control and manage work and inventory at every stage of production optimally. It has since been adapted for use in various industries, including software development and other IT-related fields, as well as marketing, HR, and so on.

In Japanese, the term Kanban means “visual signal” or “card.” In the context of project management, Kanban is a visual system for managing work as it moves through a process.

Here are the core principles of Kanban methodology:

  1. Visualize Work: Seeing work in a visual form allows teams to observe the flow of work from start to finish. Typically, the work items are represented on a Kanban board with cards and columns. Each card represents a task, and each column represents a stage in the process.
  2. Limit Work in Progress (WIP): Limiting WIP is key to implementing Kanban. By limiting the amount of work in progress, you reduce the time taken from the beginning to the end of the process, enhance focus, and quickly spot bottlenecks.
  3. Manage Flow: The goal of Kanban is to create a smooth, sustainable flow of work. By tracking the movement of work items, teams can analyze their flow and make necessary adjustments.
  4. Explicit Process Policies: Every member of the team should understand the process and the criteria for moving work from one stage to the next. Making the policies explicit helps with understanding and consistency.
  5. Feedback Loops: Regular reviews and adaptation of the process are crucial for improvement. This can take the form of daily standups, retrospectives, etc.
  6. Collaborative Change: Changes in the process should be made gradually and agreed upon by the team.

Kanban can be used on its own or as a part of other methodologies like Agile or Scrum. It is not prescriptive and can be overlaid on your current processes, allowing you to start with what you do now and evolve gradually. This flexibility has contributed to the widespread use of Kanban across different industries.

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