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What is Kanban?

Category: FAQs
Created on Monday, 30 November 2015 18:39

Kanban is an agile technique to maximize throughput in complicated processes.

Originating  in the mid-20th century at Toyota, Kanban has been adapted to a variety of processes that require coordination across multiple work centers. It is a "pull system"; that is, downstream work centers "pull" work from upstream work centers when they have the capacity to do so. This approach is driven by demand, ultimately by the customer. And, it allows teams to identify bottlenecks in the process and work to improve throughput.

Kanban means "signboard" in Japanese. In manufacturing, signs (or cards) were literally used to identify when additional upstream work-in-process should be pulled into a work center.

Kanban only requires two things:

  1. Make the work flow visible to everyone, and
  2. Establish work-in-process (WIP) limits for each work center.

The visible work flow (also known as "information radiators" or just "big visible signs") is often posted as a chart of work flow, each work center shown left-to-right in the sequence of work. Modern Kanban systems often use computer software tools to maintain the Kanban information.

WIP limits are a critical attribute of Kanban. First, they help avoid multi-tasking; having workers work on too many things at once. Ideally, team members should work on one item to completion before starting another. This minimizes the waste and inefficiency of context switching between work items.

But WIP limits also help identify bottlenecks. Work centers may not pull work if they are currently at their WIP limit. The WIP limit counts all work items in the work center, even if they're "done" and ready for the next work center in the process. If the next work center is unable to pull the completed work, there is a bottleneck somewhere in the system. All team members should break through the bottleneck and find ways to remove it from limiting throughput in the future.

In addition to the two required attributes of Kanban listed above, many teams add additional features to enhance the value they get from it. A partial list of optional techniques in Kanban:

  • Prioritize incoming work so that the most important work is done first.
  • An "urgent lane" to expedite critical work.
  • Working in fixed-time iterations to drive evaluation of product and process.

While this is an incredibly simplified description of Kanban, it provides the essential elements in any successful Kanban implementation.

Agility Software

Category: Home
Created on Saturday, 26 May 2012 19:56

Mark Noneman, Professional Scrum Expert

Agility Software: helping teams solve the puzzle of agile development and lean delivery.

Whether you are new to agile and lean or looking for new ways to speed your delivery, Agility Software can help you.

Need your team to get up-to-speed with agile quickly? Check out our popular Agility Jump-Start Program. For just the cost of training your team members, you'll get expert help every step of the way!

Or maybe you need help integrating agile development into the rest of your organization. Faster, incremental product delivery often causes new problems in getting your products to your customers. We can help you increase the agility of your entire company, getting from concept to cash faster than every before.

If you need to scale your agile practices to get more and better outcomes, we can help you with the 3 primary scaling frameworks: Nexus from, LeSS from, and the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) from Scaled Agile. All of these frameworks can help you scale, but which one is right for you? We can help you choose the best fit for your organization and then help you do it.

Partner with Agility Software to teach, coach, and consult with team members, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, Managers and Executives to adopt agile and lean techniques as quickly as possible.

If you are already on the agile journey and struggling to get the best advantage from it, we can assess your agile practices and help you smooth out the rough spots. Adopting agile requires changing your culture ... and that's hard. We have helped hundreds of people, teams, and organizations get the most out of agile.

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