Visualized workflow management method to maximize efficiency and become more agile.
Contributed by

Roman Martin

Published September 15, 2020

What Is Kanban?

Kanban is a framework used to implement agile software development based in the following practices:

  • Visualize the workflow
  • Limit Work in Progress (WIP)
  • Manage flow
  • Make Process Policies Explicit
  • Feedback loops

Visualization is the key practice of this framework. Each Work Item (Kanban Card) is represented visually on a board (Kanban Board) allowing team members to see the status of every item across the process at any time. This frameworks helps to optimize and maximize the efficiency of the flow.

Kanban Board represents the process with a set of columns representing the different step or stages of the flow. Each Kanban Card represents a work item (requested or already in progress) containing valuable information about the task and its status (e.g: summary, responsible person, deadline, ...).

Work In Progress (WIP) represent the number of work items that a team is currently working on in each stage. This limit frames the capacity of the teams's workflow at any moment and helps to identify bottlenecks. This value will help us to define a stable workflow and then a predictable delivery.

Why Do Kanban?

Kanban applies in situations where work arrives in an unpredictable fashion and/or when work items should be deployed as soon as they are ready, rather than waiting for other work items.

This framework helps you to:

  • Visually see work in progress
  • Identify bottlenecks or impediments and take steps to remove them
  • Improve team collaboration
  • Increase efficiency and productivity, reducing the time it takes to take a project or user story from start to finish.
  • Reduce waste

How to do Kanban?

Who do you need?

Kanban involves the whole team working on software development, delivery and/or deployment, Product Owners and other stakeholders with a knowledge about the process. Also a Facilitator could be useful if the team is new to this framework.

What do you need?

  • A process or workflow defined as a set of step or stages to conclude (develop, deploy, deliver) a work item.
  • Explicit Process Policies: Rules for how the team works and should be developed collaboratively. These rules describe when a work item could be moved from one column to other.
  • Kanban Board (virtual or physical) divided in a set of columns. Each column (step or stage of the process) is well-know for each member of the team.
  • Kanban Card Template: Identifies a work item with a set of properties, values or definitions to describe the task during the process. This template will help us to create the Kanban Cards.

What will you get?

Kanban will provide you a set of metrics to measure your process. These metrics are very usefull to improve your flow and identify points of failure.

  • Lead Time: Measures how much time a task spends in the Kanban board, since get in and get out. A measure for our customers.
  • Cycle Time: Measures how much time a task spends going through the process, from when the task started.
  • Throughput: Measures the total amount of work delivered (completed work items).

These metrics are connected by the Little's Law: Cycle Time = WIP / Throughput

Tips for remote Kanban

  • This framework can be applicable in remote teams.
  • Easy to apply if the team can use the same tools for documents and whiteboard.
  • One facilitator shares the primary screen, showing the tool to allow everyone to understan where is the focus.
  • If the tool you are using allows you to see where are the people in the room, it is very helpful to be focused on the same topic.

Look at Kanban

Links we love

Check out these great links which can help you dive a little deeper into running the Kanban practice with your team, customers or stakeholders.

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