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Agile Kanban Methodology: Comprehensive Overview of the Kanban Methodology

03 Jun

Kanban is considered a visual system used to manage work as it goes through a process. It is a method or methodology of scheduling work by visualizing both the workflow (referring to the process), and the actual work, task, or project that passes through the process. The main aim of Kanban is to detect and identify potential bottlenecks and loopholes in a process then fix them to allow the flow of work continue at an optimal speed and throughput. Kanban isn’t a software but a concept or system of visualizing workflow. It is a visual project and task management framework that implements Agile by encouraging small, incremental updates to be done in a project or system.

A custom software development process that uses Kanban methodology is able to ensure there is smooth flow of work among the different individuals in the web development team.

The Origin of Kanban

Kanban started in the early years of 1940s and the first Kanban system to be developed was for the Toyota Automotive Company. The Kanban system was built by an industrial engineer and entrepreneur Taiichi Ohno. It was a simple system for planning used to control and manage work as well as inventory at various stages of production to ensure optimal performance. The reasons Kanban was developed for the Japan’s Toyota was because the company was witnessing inadequate productivity and efficacy when compared to its American rivals.

By using Kanban, Toyota transformed its production ensuring it had a flexible and efficacious just-in-time automobile production control system. The production control system increased the company’s productivity while scaling down the cost-laden inventory of finished products, semi-finished materials, and raw materials. A Kanban system controls the whole value chain from suppliers to consumers. Using Kanban helps avoid supply disruption while also preventing overstocking of goods at different stages within a manufacturing process.

Continuous monitoring of the production process is done through Kanban methodology. Attention is needed to avoid troubles or bottlenecks that may slow down a production process so that there is a higher throughput with reduced delivery lead time. Kanban has been efficient in different production systems. The two pillars that support the productivity of Toyota Company are the just-in-time production control and automation.

Although Kanban was first developed by Taiichi Ohno, in the software development and IT, it was introduced by David J. Anderson in 2004. The Kanban methodology is a process aimed at gradually improving whatever you do – be it recruitment, software development, sales and marketing, staffing, IT, procurement, and the list goes on. Many business functions can take advantage of the Kanban methodology principles. With custom software development services that emphasizes on Kanban, you can have your website built and delivered in time.

Kanban Principles and Practices

A set of practices and principles are laid down by Kanban methodology to help manage and improve workflow. The evolutionally, non-disruption workflow scheduling method helps promote gradual improvements to the processes of an organization. When an organization follows the principles, it is able to maximize its productivity and scale down on costs. Kanban allows organizations to improve flow of work, reduce cycle time, enhance value to customers, and have greater predictability.

The Four Fundamental Principles of Kanban

There are four foundational principles of Kanban and they include:

First, a team should start with whatever it’s doing now. Kanban emphasizes that a team should not make any changes to their existing setup or process without ado. The team must directly apply Kanban to current workflow and if there are any changes that need to be made, they are done gradually over time. The changes are done at a rate that the team feels comfortable with.

Second, the team should agree to take incremental, evolutionary changes. The methodology encourages individuals in a team to make small incremental changes instead of having radical changes which could result in resistance among the team members or the organization.

Third, the methodology should initially respect the current roles as well as responsibilities of the team members. It does not enforce changes in an organization meaning that there is no need to change the existing roles or functions of the team members in an organization that are performing adequately. The team collaborates to identify and execute changes that may be needed. The first three principles allow organizations to rise above the emotional resistance and fears of changes that many businesses and development teams experience.

Fourth, Kanban encourages leadership at the various levels. It advocates for continuous improvement at the various levels of an organization. The leadership acts don’t necessarily have to come from the executives and senior managers. Individuals at different levels can offer their ideas and display leadership that helps implement changes to facilitate continuous improves in delivery of services or products.

The Six Core Practices of Kanban Methodology

The main practices of Kanban methodology are:

  • Visualizing workflow
  • Limiting work-in-progress (WIP)
  • Managing flow
  • Explicitly making process policies
  • Implanting feedback loops
  • Improving collaboratively and evolving experimentally

To adopt and implement Kanban methodology, a software development solutions team has to visualize the workflow. The visualization is done using Kanban Board, physically or electronically. The team has to visualize the development process steps they use to deliver a website project. The board can be simple or elaborate depending on the work items being worked on and the delivery process. Visualization also extends to the current work the team is handling and the work that they are going to handle next. The visualization can be in form of cards or stickies having different colors or just the different type of tasks.

By limiting work-in-progress, it helps encourage a team to finish the work at hand before it can take up any new task. The work that’s currently being attempted should be finished and marked done on the board. Limiting WIP helps build capacity in the development process so that new task is pulled in by a team.

The Kanban method helps manage flow of work by highlighting the different stages of the workflow as well as the status of work within each stage. A project manager may notice work piling up or a smooth flow of work. The team can use Kanban to analyze and make adjustments that help improve the flow in order to reduce the time taken to complete every piece of work.

The team also needs to visualize the process rules and guidelines that govern the way they do work. It has to formulate explicit guidelines that help create a basis for all team members to understand the ways on how to attempt any kind of task within the process. Policies can also be devised at board level and for every column. The policies can be in form of a checklist of steps that have to be done for every task. The policies can include things like; who pulls when or when is a task completed.

Any good production process needs to have a feedback loop. Using Kanban encourages teams to implement feedback loops of different kinds. The team can review stages of work in their Kanban board workflow, the reports, the metrics, and other visual cues that offer continuous feedback on the progress of a task or protect.

Being an evolutionally improvement process, Kanban methodology helps teams adopt small changes while improving little by little at a speed or rate the team feels comfortable to handle.

Advantages of Kanban Methodology

The visualization of a project using Kanban method offers unique value in determining whether it’s the right methodology for managing a project being handled by a team. There are advantages that come with this methodology and they include:

  • Increased flexibility since there are no set phase durations. Priorities are only re-evaluated when fresh details about a project arise.
  • It reduces wastage because it ensures that a team does not spend much time doing unnecessary work.
  • It is easy to get started with the methodology meaning teams don’t need to learn a whole new concept or method
  • It shows improvement of workflow by focusing on just-in-time approach to production and delivery of a project
  • It minimizes cycle time since the entire team focuses on minimizing bottlenecks so that accomplishment of tasks is done quickly throughout the process.

Disadvantages of Kanban Methodology

While Kanban has many advantages in improving workflow among teams, it also has some disadvantages. For instance:

  • It can lead to overcomplicated board that may make it too difficult to understand what needs to be done and how to do it.
  • The board can also be outdated resulting in the team using erroneous information
  • There may be lack of timing because the columns are marked with phrases like “To-do”, “In progress”, and “Complete”. This makes it difficult for the team to see when tasks will be done.

When Can an Organization Use Kanban

While Kanban was initially established to be used in the management of workflow in physical goods industries like in the manufacturing of automobiles, today, it has broadened its use and is applicable to intangible goods work like software s development. In software development processes, there is the problem of reduced ability to project the delivery timelines. Teams need to use Kanban if:

  • They don’t have strict deadlines
  • Estimation is not necessary
  • Need a flexible system that you can add or remove tasks on the fly
  • Continuous improvement is needed in the production or development process
  • The team wants to improve delivery flow
  • The team needs a system or methodology that’s easy to understand
  • The team does not appropriately respond to big change
  • The teams wants to be able to release or deliver anytime


When using Kanban, an individual in a team should handle their tasks or work within the set standards and adhere to the rules. They should complete the tasks they are presently handling before moving to another task. The Kanban information contained in the board should be readily available to every member of the team and kept up-to-date. That’s why digital Kanban boards are more preferred since teams can access them anywhere, anytime, and can instantly be updated without the need to use physical cards or do manual updates. If you are choosing a software development firm in India, ensure you get one that uses an efficient way of delivering the product for example, a team that applies the Kanban culture in its website development process.

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