What Is Kanban

Kanban is a popular Lean workflow management method for visualizing, defining, managing, and improving services that deliver knowledge work.

Welcome to the world of Kanban, a revolutionary method for managing and optimizing workflows. 

Whether you’re a business owner looking to streamline your operations or an individual looking to improve your personal productivity, Kanban has something to offer. 

This powerful system has been used by companies large and small to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and improve communication. In this blog post, we will explore the basics of Kanban and how you can use it to take your productivity to the next level. 

So, let’s get started and discover the magic of Kanban together!

The History

Once upon a time, there was a man named Taiichi Ohno who worked at a big toy factory.

The factory was always very busy, making lots of different toys, but sometimes things didn’t go as smoothly as they should.

Taiichi noticed that there were always too many toys in some parts of the factory, and not enough in others.

This made it hard for the workers to do their jobs, and sometimes the toys would get stuck and not move.

One day, Taiichi had an idea. He got some big pieces of paper and drew a big picture of the factory on them.

He divided the picture into different sections, like the toy-making section and the toy-packing section.

Then, he got some small cards and wrote the name of each toy on them.

He put the cards on the big picture in the section where the toy was being made.

When a toy was finished, he moved the card to the next section, where the toy would be packed up and sent out.

Taiichi also decided to limit the number of cards in each section, so that the factory wouldn’t get too crowded.

This helped to keep the toys moving smoothly through the factory, and the workers were able to do their jobs much better.

Taiichi’s idea worked so well that other factories started doing the same thing, and soon it became known as the Kanban method.

And from that day on, the toys were made and sent out quickly and efficiently, and everyone was happy.

Well… It is true! 

The story I just told you is based on a real-life method called Kanban, which was developed by Taiichi Ohno in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Ohno was an engineer who worked for Toyota, and he was tasked with improving the efficiency of the company’s production lines.

He noticed that the traditional mass production method caused a lot of waste and inefficiencies, and he began experimenting with different ways to improve the process.

In 1948, Ohno visited a factory in the United States where he saw a system of using cards to control production.

He was inspired by this idea, and he adapted it to create the Kanban method.

The Kanban method was first implemented at Toyota in the early 1950s, and it played a key role in the company’s success.

The method helped to reduce waste, improve efficiency, and increase productivity.

Ohno’s ideas were later developed and refined by other experts, and they became the basis for the popular Lean Manufacturing methodology.

So, the story of Kanban is a true one, and it shows how a simple idea can have a big impact on the way we work and live.

It’s a reminder that even small changes can lead to big improvements and that continuous improvement is the key to success.

The approach represents a pull system. As a result, production is based on customer demand rather than the usual push method of producing goods and pushing them to the market.

In contrast to its American automotive rivals, Toyota had inadequate productivity and efficiency, which led to the development of Kanban. 

Using Kanban, Toyota achieved just-in-time production control that increased productivity and reduced inventory costs of raw materials, semi-finished products, and finished goods.

As a result, production is based on customer demand rather than the usual push method of producing goods and pushing them to the market.

But Why Kanban?

The name “Kanban” comes from the Japanese word “kan” meaning “sign” or “card” and “ban” meaning “board”.

The Kanban method uses cards or sticky notes on a board to represent tasks or work items, and the name “Kanban” refers to this visual system.

Taiichi Ohno, the developer of Kanban, saw the idea of using cards to control production in a factory in the United States, and he adopted that idea and implemented it at Toyota in the early 1950s.

The Kanban system helped to reduce waste, improve efficiency, and increase productivity, and it became a key element of the company’s success.

The name “Kanban” has become widely used to refer to this system of visualizing workflows, limiting work in progress, and making process policies explicit.

It’s widely used in software development, manufacturing, service, and personal workflows, and it has become a standard method for managing and optimizing work.

What Is Kanban?

Kanban is a method for managing work and tasks that emphasize visualizing workflows, limiting work in progress, and making process policies explicit.

It is often used in software development but it can be applied to any field or industry.

At its core, Kanban is a system that uses cards or sticky notes on a board to represent tasks or work items.

The board is divided into columns, each representing a different stage of the workflow.

For example, a software development team might have columns for “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Done”.

The cards or sticky notes are moved from left to right as the work progresses, and the number of cards in each column is limited to a specific number.

This helps prevent too much work from piling up in one stage of the process, which can cause delays and bottlenecks.

The Kanban method also encourages continuous improvement by regularly reviewing the workflow and making adjustments to improve the process.

It’s a very simple yet effective way to manage work, improve communication, and increase productivity.

From supplier to consumer, a Kanban system should control the entire value chain. 

At various stages of the manufacturing process, it prevents disruptions in supply and overstocking. 

Processes must be monitored continuously in Kanban. It is important to avoid bottlenecks that could slow down the production process. 

But Wait… Bottlenecks?

A bottleneck is a point in a process where things slow down or get stuck. 

It’s like a traffic jam on a highway – cars are moving along smoothly on one end, but then they hit a section where there is a lot of congestion and the cars have to go much slower.

Here are some examples of bottlenecks that even kids can understand:

Imagine you are building a Lego tower… You have a lot of Lego pieces and you’re building the tower as fast as you can. But suddenly you run out of a certain type of piece, like the red bricks. Now you have to stop and wait for more red bricks to arrive, and the rest of the tower can’t be built until you have them. That’s a bottleneck.

Imagine you’re baking a cake… You have all the ingredients and you’re mixing them together in a big bowl. But then you realize you don’t have a pan to bake the cake in. Now you have to stop and go buy a pan, and the cake can’t be baked until you have it. That’s a bottleneck.

Imagine you’re playing a game of Monopoly with your friends… You’re all buying properties and building houses and hotels. But then you realize that one player has all the houses and hotels, so no one else can build on their properties. Now the game is stuck and can’t move forward until that player sells some of their houses and hotels. That’s a bottleneck.

In any process, work, or task, the idea of identifying and removing bottlenecks is to make it flow smoothly and efficiently. 

Kanban helps in identifying these bottlenecks and making improvements to remove them.

What Makes Kanban So Popular?

Kanban has gained popularity in a variety of businesses over the years.

Kanban has gained popularity in recent years for several reasons:

Flexibility: Kanban is a very flexible method that can be adapted to a wide variety of industries and workflows. It is not limited to any particular type of work and can be used to manage everything from software development to manufacturing to personal tasks.

Visualization: Kanban is a very visual method, which makes it easy for people to understand and follow. The use of cards or sticky notes on a board makes it simple to see what work needs to be done, who is working on it, and where it is in the process.

Continuous improvement: Kanban encourages regular reviews of the workflow and encourages improvements to the process. This helps teams to identify and remove bottlenecks, improve communication, and increase productivity.

Agile approach: Kanban is often used in conjunction with Agile methodologies, which are widely used in software development and other industries. This approach helps teams to be more adaptive, flexible, and responsive to changes.

Ease of adoption: Kanban is easy to understand and implement, and it doesn’t require a lot of upfront planning or setup. This makes it a great option for teams that want to improve their workflow without a lot of overhead.

All those benefits make Kanban an attractive option for many organizations and individuals looking to improve their productivity, efficiency, and communication.

In 2004, David J. Anderson was the first to apply kanban to the IT industry, software development, and knowledge work in general, following Taiichi Ohno’s introduction of kanban in the manufacturing industry. 

David developed the Kanban Method by combining concepts such as pull systems, queueing theory, and flow from Taiichi Ohno, Eli Goldratt, Edward Demmings, and Peter Drucker. 

The most comprehensive definition of the Kanban Method for knowledge work can be found in his first book on Kanban – “Kanban: Successfully Evolutionary Change for your Technology Business”.

It is possible to apply Kanban Methodology to almost any aspect of the business.

As a result of the work of various thought leaders since the original book, the Kanban body of knowledge has been abstracted and enriched! 

People such as Don Reinertsen (author of Principles of Product Development Flow), Jim Benson (pioneer of Personal Kanban), and several others.

Start with what you are doing now

With Kanban, you can use the method over existing workflows, systems, and processes without disrupting them.

In general, the method acknowledges that existing processes, roles, responsibilities, and titles are valuable.

The report will highlight issues that need to be addressed and help assess and plan changes so that they can be implemented as smoothly as possible.

Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change

Minimal resistance is the goal of the Kanban method.

Utilizing collaboration and feedback forms encourages continuous small incremental and evolutionary changes to the current process.

Generally speaking, sweeping changes are discouraged since they often encounter resistance due to fear or uncertainty.

Initially, respect current roles, responsibilities, and job titles

People’s everyday insights are the basis for leadership at all levels, which aims to improve their way of working.

A Kanban board with cards and columns is needed to visualize your process. Your workflow is represented by each column on the board. Work items are represented by Kanban cards.

A Kanban board represents the actual state of your workflow with all its risks and specifications.

Kanban is not possible if there are no limits on work-in-progress.

A Kanban Method is a set of principles and practices for managing and improving workflow.

Keeping an appropriate number of items active at any given time is one of Kanban’s primary functions.

Limiting the Work in Progress (WIP) is an important aspect of Kanban because it helps to prevent bottlenecks and keep the workflow moving smoothly.

Here are a few reasons why:

Focusing on one task at a time: When you limit the WIP, you’re forcing yourself or your team to focus on one task at a time, rather than trying to work on many tasks at once. This helps to reduce multitasking, which can lead to decreased productivity and quality.

Identifying bottlenecks: Limiting the WIP makes it easier to identify where bottlenecks are occurring in the process. When you have too many tasks in progress at once, it can be difficult to see where things are slowing down. But when the WIP is limited, it’s clear when a task is taking longer than expected, which can help you to identify and fix the problem.

Improving flow: Limiting the WIP helps to improve the flow of work through the process. When there are too many tasks in progress, it can be difficult to see when one task is completed and the next one can begin. But when the WIP is limited, it’s clear when a task is done and the next one can start, which helps to keep the workflow moving smoothly.

Reducing waste: Limiting the WIP can also help to reduce waste in the process. When you’re working on too many tasks at once, it’s easy to forget what you were working on or to duplicate effort. But when the WIP is limited, it’s easy to see what needs to be done, which can help to reduce rework and unnecessary steps.

Limiting the Work in Progress is key for Kanban to work effectively, and it helps to keep the process moving efficiently, improves focus, and reduces waste and delays.

If you follow these principles and practices, you will successfully be able to use Kanban for maximizing the benefits to your business process – improve flow, reduce cycle time, and increase value to the customer, with greater predictability – all of which are crucial to any business today.

Kanban and Your Personal Life and Career

Kanban can be applied to your personal life and career in a few ways:

Prioritize your tasks: Create a Kanban board with columns for “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Done”, and use cards or sticky notes to represent your tasks. Prioritize your tasks by moving them from left to right as you complete them.

Limit your work in progress: Limit the number of tasks you have in the “In Progress” column at any given time. This will help you focus on one task at a time and reduce multitasking, which can lead to decreased productivity and quality.

Review your progress regularly: Regularly review your Kanban board and make adjustments as needed. This will help you to identify and remove bottlenecks, improve communication, and increase productivity.

Apply flow: Use Kanban to visualize and optimize your workflow, for example, if you have a task that needs to be done but doesn’t have the required resources, you could block that task in the board and move on to the next one.

Personalize it: You can adapt the Kanban board to your personal life, for example, if you want to use it to manage your house cleaning tasks, you could use columns for “Kitchen”, “Bathroom”, “Bedroom” and so on.

Kanban is a great tool to manage your tasks and workflows, it can help you to prioritize, stay on track and increase your productivity.

Keep in mind that Kanban is a flexible method that can be adapted to your personal needs, so feel free to adjust it as you see fit.

And there you have it, a comprehensive introduction to Kanban and its benefits.

From visualizing workflows to limiting work in progress and making process policies explicit, Kanban is a powerful system that can help you to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and improve communication.

It’s a simple yet effective way to manage work, improve productivity and achieve your goals.

I hope this blog post has inspired you to give Kanban a try.

Whether you’re a business owner looking to streamline your operations or an individual looking to improve your personal productivity, Kanban has something to offer.

So, go ahead, visualize your work, limit your WIP, and start seeing improvements in your productivity.

Remember, continuous improvement is the key to success, and Kanban can help you achieve it.

Thanks for reading, and happy Kanban-ing!

I am incredibly grateful that you have taken the time to read this post.

Do you want to get new content in your Email?

Check my main categories of content below:

Navigate between the many topics covered in this website:

Agile Art Artificial Intelligence Blockchain Books Brazil Business Business Tales Career Coaching Communication Creativity Culture Cybersecurity Design DevOps Economy Emotional Intelligence Feedback Flow Focus Gaming Goals GPT Habits Health History Innovation Kanban Leadership Lean Life Managament Management Mentorship Metaverse Metrics Mindset Minimalism Motivation Negotiation Networking Neuroscience NFT Ownership Parenting Planning PMBOK PMI Politics Productivity Products Project Management Projects Psychological Safety Pulse Readings Routines Scrum Self-Improvement Self-Management Sleep Startups Strategy Team Building Technology Time Management Volunteering Work

Do you want to check previous posts about Project Management? Check these from the last couple of weeks:

Support my work by sharing my content with your network using the sharing buttons below.

Want to show your support tangibly? A virtual coffee is a small but nice way to show your appreciation and give me the extra energy to keep crafting valuable content! Pay me a coffee:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *