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What is Kanban?

Demystifying Kanban: A Strategy for Continuous Improvement


Kanban is often misunderstood as just a system for delivering work. However, at its core, Kanban is a strategy designed to help you understand and optimize your existing processes. In this blog post, we’ll explore what Kanban really is, how it functions, and why it can be a game-changer for any team or organization.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is not a system for delivering stuff; it’s a strategy for improving your workflow. It allows you to monitor and optimize any existing system, making it more efficient and effective.

  • Common Misunderstandings: Many think Kanban is a rigid system. In reality, it’s a flexible strategy that can be applied to various workflows.
  • Core Function: Kanban helps you see your current processes clearly and make informed changes to improve them.

The Mechanics of Kanban

Kanban works by bringing rigor, metrics, and analysis to your workflow, allowing you to make data-driven decisions. Here’s a step-by-step guide to how it works:

  1. Define Your Workflow:
  • Initial Step: Write down how you currently work. This might seem simple, but it’s crucial for understanding and optimizing your system.
  • Why It Matters: Documenting your process ensures everyone is on the same page and helps identify areas for improvement.
  1. Visualize Your Work:
  • Create a Board: Use a physical board or digital tools like JIRA or DevOps to visualize your workflow.
  • Key Insight: A board alone is not Kanban. It’s just a tool to help you visualize and manage work.
  1. Monitor and Adapt:
  • Collect Data: Use Kanban metrics to track the flow of work and identify bottlenecks.
  • Make Changes: Actively manage and adapt your workflow based on the data you collect.

Kanban in Action: Real-World Applications

Kanban isn’t limited to any specific type of work. It can be applied to various domains, from software engineering to supermarket checkouts.

  • Universal Application: Whether it’s an engineering team, a creative team, or even a checkout system at a supermarket, Kanban can bring rigor and clarity.
  • Example: At the beginning of any Kanban implementation, teams create a “definition of workflow,” essentially writing down their current way of working. This simple act can uncover inefficiencies and standardize processes.

The Power of Visual Management

Visual management is a critical aspect of Kanban. Humans are naturally good at spotting visual discrepancies, making it easier to identify problems and opportunities for improvement.

  • Example: Imagine playing Monopoly without the rulebook. Everyone would play differently, leading to confusion. Similarly, a team without a documented workflow will face inconsistencies.
  • Benefit: Visualizing work helps teams spot issues quickly and make necessary adjustments.

Continuous Improvement with Kanban

Kanban promotes continuous improvement through a cycle of monitoring, analyzing, and adapting the workflow.

  1. Start Where You Are:
  • Initial Step: Document your current workflow as accurately as possible.
  • Immediate Benefits: Even this initial step can lead to immediate improvements as inconsistencies are revealed.
  1. Make Incremental Changes:
  • Small Adjustments: Gradually refine your workflow based on the data and insights you gather.
  • Example: If you notice that a particular stage in your workflow is causing delays, make changes and monitor the impact.
  1. Apply Little’s Law:
  • Continuous Loop: Use the principles of Little’s Law to guide your improvements, ensuring that each change leads to better flow and efficiency.

Why Kanban is Essential

If your current system is failing, implementing a Kanban strategy can lead to significant improvements. Don’t wait for problems to become crises. The sooner you start with Kanban, the sooner you’ll see positive changes.

  • Call to Action: Ready to transform your workflow with Kanban? Contact us to get started with world-class training and consulting.


Kanban is more than just a method for managing work. It’s a powerful strategy for continuous improvement, applicable to any system or workflow. By defining your workflow, visualizing your work, and continuously adapting based on data, you can achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in your processes.

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  • Further Reading: Explore more about Kanban and agile methodologies on our blog.

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