Introduced as a scheduling system / stock replenishment for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing (JIT) by Toyota Manufacturing. Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, developed Kanban to improve manufacturing efficiency. Kanban is a visual system where you get to visualize both the process and the actual tasks in that process. The main purpose of Kanban is to visualize progress and manage work in a cost-effective way at a steady speed. It follows a set of principles to improve the flow of work and streamline tasks.
Kanban is based on values and foundational principles. If Mike Barrows was presenting them, he might begin with the four values.
- Understand. Start with what you do now. It is easier to introduce change by starting with has been established now. Why does it work or how does it cause pain?
- Agreement. Agree to pursue evolutionary change.
- Respect. Respect for the person. Initially, respect existing roles, responsibilities, and job titles.
- Leadership. Encourage acts of leadership at all levels in your organization from individual contributor to senior management.
However, he would not stop there. He would demonstrate how the remaining values are used in practicing the six basic principles.
- Transparency. Visualize the work.
- Balanced. Limit work in progress (WIP).
- Customer focused, Flow. Manage flow.
- Transparency. Make policies explicit.
- Transparency. Implement Feedback loops.
- Collaboration. Continuous Improvement/Kaizen.
Traditionally Kanban teams have no role requirements. It encourages respecting the existing roles, responsibilities as well as job titles. There are common roles for Kanban teams. The Kanban Coach who works with teams to guide them on understanding and executing Kanban. The person, who might be a Product Owner/Product Manager, who manages the stakeholders and their requests. Works with the team to understand the requests.
The six principles in greater detail from our discussion.
- Visualize the work. A Kanban board is used to see the work. The board also visualizes more than just the work. On the board, it common to see the work, workflow, and risk, if they exist. As Art mentioned, the simplest board is a To Do (backlog), In Progress (work being done), and Done (completed/done work). Board are both a Kanban and Scrum practice.
- Limit work in progress. Overloading a person or team can unproductive and bring stress. Therefore, it is important to keep the work in progress low so team can focus on moving the work to done and making themselves available, collaboration, to their teammates to get work done. Limiting work in progress is like less is “more.” This works well with the practice of not assigning work, coaching the team to pull work when a signal appears.
- Manage flow. Producing outcomes requires delivering work; therefore, to deliver the value from our work, it is key to keep work moving left to right. If you have choice between helping someone to unblock work to keep flow moving, this is the choice the team needs to make daily to achieve value quickly. Creating a signal that allows something to be pulled left requires work to move to the left. The other thing that helps is a Kanban Daily Standup. How are we doing? What do we need to do? What impediment / flow issue do we address?
- Make policies explicit. Management of work should be done based on team agreed upon guidelines. Being transparent with the team and the people we interact. What should everyone know? Entrance and exit guidelines? How to handle types of request? How many things should be work in progress? What happens if something is stuck by something out of the team’s control? What happens when results in a Backlog or To Do column signal? What happens during Daily Standup?
- Implement Feedback loops. How many times have you asked someone, “what did you think?” This is a powerful question. It is important to get help from the person asking for something or from the people working on it. Do you have checkpoint(s) in the delivery of work, such as Daily Standup, Replenishment Meeting, Reviews/Demos or team conversations, where team share how are things going or get the requestor opinion on what has been done? The activities in Plan, Do, Check, Act learning cycle.
- Continuous Improvement/Kaizen. Remember when you assembled something for the first time? When you completed something for the first time. Every time we do something we learn something. It is no different for the team. Spending time to determine how to do something a little bit better is key to doing it a little bit better. Use the events and team feeling to determine how to do it a bit better. Reinforce it is safe to fail. This is part of the learning and improving cycle we follow.
Before you go, Lean Management may have been a term you heard. Here is a quick definition. Lean Management is a technique developed with the aim of minimizing process waste, eight types, and maximizing the value of the product or service to the customer, without compromising the quality. It is coined by Toyota Production System, which is a part of lean thinking.
We discussed how Kanban goes beyond IT. Can it be used to manage your personal backlog? Yes, let’s see how. In this post, read about 5 free online Kanban board. You can use them to manage your projects with status boards and task cards.
Note: This video provides a nice overview of Scrum and Kanban along with their differences and why you would choose one over the other.