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3 core practices of Kanban. Improving a workflow.

Improving Your Workflow in a Kanban Strategy


The third core practice in Kanban is improving your workflow. It’s essential to not only visualize your work and actively manage it but also to make continuous improvements to the workflow itself. Without ongoing improvements, inefficiencies and blockages will persist, hindering the overall effectiveness of your system.

The Importance of Improving Your Workflow

It’s not enough to just see what’s happening in your system and manage the work actively. If your system is flawed or inefficient, those issues need to be addressed. Improving your workflow involves making changes to maximize the flow of value through your system. Here’s how to approach this:

  1. Identify and Address Blockages:
  • Understand why blockages occur and take steps to eliminate them.
  • If work is getting stuck in a particular stage, investigate the cause and adjust the process to prevent future blockages.
  1. Reduce Waiting Times:
  • Minimize delays in the workflow by addressing approval processes or other bottlenecks.
  • Implement strategies to ensure work moves smoothly through the system without unnecessary waiting.

A Real-Life Example of Workflow Improvement

Let me share a real-life example to illustrate how improving the workflow can significantly enhance efficiency:

I worked with a team in the US that had a Kanban board on the wall in a central corridor of their office. They faced a challenge with an approval process that created a bottleneck. The approval person only reviewed items once a week, leading to significant delays.

The Problem:

  • Items finished on Monday afternoon would sit for almost a week before being approved the following Monday.
  • This delay was costly, causing unnecessary waiting times and hindering the flow of work.

The Solution:

  • The team calculated the cost of items sitting and waiting for approval and displayed these financial figures on the Kanban board.
  • They used Post-its to highlight these costs, which increased as the week progressed.
  • They also created a graph to show the bad flow of work and the accumulating costs.

The Result:

  • The person responsible for approvals noticed the escalating costs displayed on the board and immediately understood the impact.
  • This visibility prompted them to change their behavior, checking for approvals every morning and evening.
  • This change significantly reduced the waiting times, leading to a major cost benefit for the team.

Taking Action to Improve Workflow

Improving your workflow involves more than just identifying problems. It requires taking concrete steps to address those issues:

  • Visualize Costs and Delays:
  • Use visual aids to highlight the impact of delays and blockages.
  • Make the costs of inefficiencies visible to everyone involved.
  • Encourage Proactive Behavior:
  • Foster a culture where team members actively look for ways to improve the workflow.
  • Regularly review and adjust processes to ensure they remain efficient.
  • Engage Stakeholders:
  • Involve key stakeholders in the process of identifying and addressing workflow issues.
  • Ensure everyone understands the impact of delays and the importance of timely approvals and actions.


Improving your workflow is a critical practice in Kanban that ensures your system remains efficient and effective. By identifying blockages, reducing waiting times, and making continuous improvements, you can maximize the flow of value through your system.

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