Kanban is a work management method which focuses on work visualisation to identify bottlenecks, limiting work in progress to go reduce multitasking, and focuses on end-to-end delivery. Kanban is particularly powerful when combined with practices and tools from other methodologies such as Scrum and Extreme Programming. Often, this combination is referred to as Scrumban.

Key features of Kanban include, limiting the amount of work you have in progress, visualising the work, visualising blockers, focusing on removing blockers over starting more work, using queues to smooth flow by creating a pull system, using avatars to demonstrate where the team are focused, encouraging a swarming behaviour to enable teams to quickly tackle bottlenecks and problems. Reducing batch size is a key focus in Kanban to enable teams to release smaller amounts of value but more regularly.

To start with Kanban is very simple. You visualise what you currently do in terms of process. Once an initial visualisation has been created you can then focus on continuously improving your system. We refer to the card wall as a visualisation of your delivery system. All systems need a purpose. Another principle of Kanban is that nothing has value until it is deployed to a live environment, but more importantly, that it’s being used by end users. Until it’s in the hands of the users the work only has costs associated with it. Any work that is started and not finished is classed as inventory. Kanban aims to reduce waiting time by minimising hand-offs between teams.

Scrum vs Kanban

The Kanban vs Scrum debate is a completely pointless argument. Each solves a set of problems. The problems they solve are complementary. There may be times when aspects of Scrum may not be applicable, such as working with IT Operations teams but generally they’re complimentary with each other. At Solutioneers we find many of our clients start out with Scrum practices but overtime they soften the sprint boundaries and move to a continuous flow model of delivery. Once you make the transition from Scrum to Kanban you may retain some of the practices of Scrum. Examples include Sprint planning. Sprint planning in Kanban is useful when organising the demand or backlog. Although the team may not be utilising Sprints for delivery, planning ahead in terms of two week deliveries can be useful for some stakeholders. So if you hear people arguing over Scrum vs Kanban, just point them at this argument.

Misspellings of Kanban

There are occasions when Kanban is spelt incorrectly. Examples include can ban, Kan Ban, canban, and all other combinations. The correct spelling is Kanban.