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What is Kanban?

What is Kanban?

Apeksha Patel
1st Mar, 2019

Kanban Origins

Kanban is a popular Agile framework used by software development and support teams. Kanban originated almost three forth of a century, back in time. During late 1940s, Toyota wanted to optimize its engineering processes. The inventory management system which super markets use, was very efficient because they efficiently decrease the amount of excess stock from the consumer’s consumption patterns. This approach helps super markets to keep stock of any given product which the customers need and avoid excessive stocks.

The goal of Toyota is to make their inventory available to match with their consumption of the same in manufacturing. This leads to the evolution of JIT (Just-In-Time) manufacturing process.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a method for defining, managing, and improving services that deliver knowledge work, and the design of both physical and software products. The Kanban Method is based on making visible what is otherwise intangible knowledge work, to ensure that the service works on the right amount of work—work that is requested and needed by the customer and that the service has the capability to deliver. Kanban focuses on the delivery of services by an organization—one or more people collaborating to produce working products.

As per the super market concept, limiting the stock and making it available at the same time is exactly the concept behind limiting the amount of work in progress.

Kanban Values

Kanban method is led by multiple values. Unlike other frameworks, Kanban has a high list values which talks not just about teams but also on Customer focus, Leadership, understanding and Agreement as well.

Kanban Workflow

Kanban is used to define, manage, and improve systems that deliver services of value to customers. As Kanban is applied to knowledge work, where the deliveries consist of information in various forms rather than physical items, the processes can be defined as a series of knowledge-discovery steps and their associated policies, made visible in a Kanban board. The board depicts a flow system in which work items flow through various stages of a process, ordered from left to right.

The visual signals derive from the combination of the cards, the displayed Work in Progress Limits (in the rectangles at the head of the columns), and the column that represents the activity. In addition, Kanban systems must have identified commitment and delivery points.

The commitment is an explicit or tacit agreement between customer and service that:

  1. the customer wants an item and will take delivery of it, and
  2. the service will produce it and deliver it to the customer.

Before the commitment point there may be a set of outstanding requests (or a pool of ideas), which may or may not be selected, and a process whose purpose is selecting items from these options. Kanban applied to processes prior to the commitment point is sometimes referred to as Discovery Kanban. The delivery point is where items are considered complete. The time that an item is in process between the commitment and delivery points is referred to as the item’s Lead Time (or System Lead Time). Customer Lead Time may be different—it is the time a customer waits for the item (typically from request to receipt). The fact that a distinction is made between the creation, or arrival, of a request and the commitment to fulfill the request is important; it is referred to as deferred commitment.

The collection of items that are within the system under consideration at any point in time, as well as the count of the number of these items, is known as the Work in Progress or WiP. The rate at which items are delivered is known as the Delivery Rate. This is calculated from the reciprocal of the time between the latest delivery and the previous one or, for an average Delivery Rate over a given period, by dividing the number of deliveries by the length of the time period.

Click here to learn more about Kanban from an Accredited Kanban Trainer.

*image source: Essential Kanban Condensed by David J Anderson & Andy Carmichael

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