Of course, the above explanation of Kanban boards and cards is extremely simple, but it helps to illustrate the basic way that Kanban boards are used. By moving cards from left to right through defined steps in a process, and communicating work details within the cards, you can visualize virtually any process, at any level of your organization.
Kanban is immensely helpful because it is extremely flexible – but there are some key Kanban practices and concepts that will guide you to success. We will share them here.
(Note: There are many ways to define Kanban; the intent in listing the core elements in this manner is not to introduce a new definition but to distill the common principles.)
1. Visualize work
By creating a visual model of your work and process, you can observe the flow of work moving through the Kanban system. Making the work visible, along with visual indications of blockers, bottlenecks, and queues, instantly leads to increased communication and collaboration. This helps teams see how fast their work is moving through the system and where they can focus their efforts to boost flow.
2. Limit work-in-process
By limiting how much unfinished work is in process, you can reduce the time it takes an item to travel through the Kanban system. You can also avoid problems caused by task switching and reduce the need to constantly reprioritize items. WIP limits unlock the full potential of Kanban, enabling teams to deliver quality work faster than ever in a healthier, more sustainable environment.
3. Focus on flow
Using work-in-process limits and team-driven policies, you can optimize your Kanban system to:
- Improve the flow of work
- Collect metrics to analyze flow
- Get leading indicators of future problems
A consistent flow of work is essential for faster and more reliable delivery, bringing greater value to your customers, team, and organization.