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3 best ways to wreck Kanban. Sweep problems under the rug.

The Danger of Ignoring Problems in Your Kanban Strategy


One of the most common behaviors that can severely impact the success of any process, particularly a Kanban strategy, is sweeping problems under the rug. Ignoring issues, whether intentionally or not, can lead to significant setbacks and even disasters.

The Habit of Ignoring Problems

Ignoring problems is a habit many teams fall into. Here’s why this happens and how to avoid it:

  1. Natural Tendency to Avoid:
  • Humans often avoid tasks that seem too difficult or time-consuming. This leads to issues being ignored rather than addressed.
  • This avoidance can be due to a lack of knowledge, fear of the effort required, or simply not knowing how to tackle the problem.
  1. Common Scenario:
  • Consider a scenario where household chores are neglected, such as never cleaning the grill because it’s seen as too much effort. Over time, this leads to a build-up of grease and eventually, a fire hazard.
  • This scenario is analogous to teams ignoring technical debt or bureaucratic processes, leading to larger problems down the line.

Consequences of Ignoring Problems

Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away; it makes them worse:

  1. Accumulation of Issues:
  • Over time, small ignored problems can accumulate, leading to significant blockages in your system.
  • This can manifest as bureaucratic hurdles, technical debt, or inefficiencies in your workflow.
  1. Inevitability of Crisis:
  • Just as a neglected grill eventually catches fire, ignored problems in your workflow will eventually cause a crisis.
  • This crisis could be in the form of project delays, cost overruns, or failure to deliver value to customers.

The Importance of Addressing Issues

Addressing issues promptly is critical for maintaining an effective Kanban strategy:

  1. Regular Maintenance:
  • Just as regular cleaning prevents a grill fire, regular maintenance of your workflow prevents issues from escalating.
  • This involves revisiting and refining processes, addressing technical debt, and removing bureaucratic hurdles.
  1. Developing Discipline and Courage:
  • Teams need the discipline to regularly address issues rather than ignoring them.
  • Courage is required to tackle difficult problems head-on, even when the solutions are not immediately obvious.

Practical Steps to Avoid Ignoring Problems

Implementing a Kanban strategy effectively requires proactive problem-solving:

  1. Identify and Visualize Problems:
  • Use your Kanban board to visualize where problems are occurring in your workflow. This helps in identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
  1. Conduct Regular Retrospectives:
  • Regularly reflect on what’s working and what’s not. Ask questions like, “Are we hiding or ignoring anything?” to ensure problems are brought to light.
  1. Create a Culture of Transparency:
  • Foster an environment where team members feel safe to raise issues without fear of blame.
  • Transparency helps in creating awareness and collective problem-solving.
  1. Take Action:
  • Once problems are identified, take immediate action to address them. This might involve process changes, additional training, or bringing in external expertise.


Ignoring problems can derail your Kanban strategy and lead to significant issues. By developing the discipline and courage to address problems head-on, you can maintain an effective workflow and continuously improve your processes.

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