The Kanban Craze: What it Means and Why You Need to Know its Definition

Kanban is a highly effective and widespread project management methodology, used by organizations globally to improve efficiency and streamline processes in various industries. Originally utilized in the 1940s by Toyota to optimize its manufacturing process, Kanban has evolved to become an indispensable tool in the IT industry and software development. According to a 2020 survey, 25% of software development professionals embraced Kanban as their project management framework. By reading further, you’ll gain valuable insights into the definition, workings, benefits, and best practices of Kanban, along with its most recommended literature.

“Kanban is like a GPS for work – it helps you visualize where you are and guides you to where you need to be.” – David J. Anderson

What is Kanban? Definition of Kanban (Software Development)

Kanban, a Japanese term meaning “signboard” or “billboard,” is a visual project management framework used to optimize workflow, control work in progress (WIP), and minimize lead times. At its core, Kanban focuses on the visualization of work, allowing team members to understand the process and identify bottlenecks or potential issues quickly. The method is highly adaptive and can be applied to various industries, including software development, manufacturing, and even personal task management.

ℹ️ Synonyms: Visual board, task board, flow board, signaling system.

How it Works

Kanban relies on a visual representation of a work process, traditionally a physical board with cards representing tasks, and columns signifying the different stages of the process. In its most basic form, a Kanban board will have three columns: To-Do, In Progress, and Done. Team members move tasks/cards from left to right as they advance through the process, giving everyone a clear view of the work’s progress.

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Most modern implementations of Kanban use digital boards, providing additional versatility and functionality. These digital tools allow teams to set WIP limits, add attachments, and assign tasks to specific individuals, further enhancing the Kanban experience.

Benefits of using Kanban

  • Improved efficiency and productivity through the visualization of work, allowing team members to understand the entire process and identify areas for improvement.
  • Increased flexibility in task management with the possibility to easily reprioritize tasks and accommodate last-minute changes.
  • Effective control over work in progress (WIP) and elimination of bottlenecks, reducing lead times and increasing overall performance.
  • Enhanced collaboration and communication within the team, as everyone has a clear understanding of the work status, responsibilities, and priorities.
  • Decreased time waste and resources allocated to unproductive activities, improving the team’s ability to complete projects on time and within budget.

Kanban use cases

Kanban’s versatility makes it applicable to numerous industries and sectors. Some use cases include:

Software development

Kanban is widely used in Agile software development, where it helps manage work items, track progress, and control WIP. The visual aspect of the Kanban board is particularly effective for development teams to spot bottlenecks and expedite project delivery.

Product management

Product managers use Kanban to oversee new product development and manage product backlogs, ensuring continuous delivery while maintaining visibility into the progress of individual features and tasks.

Marketing & content creation

Kanban boards effectively organize marketing campaigns and content calendars, allowing marketing professionals to visualize, prioritize, and track the completion of tasks such as blog posts, social media updates, and email newsletters.

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Personal task management

Kanban can be effectively adapted to personal use, helping individuals manage their daily tasks, goals, and priorities through a simple, visual system.

Best Practices

When implementing Kanban, focus on maintaining a clear visualization of your workflow, setting appropriate WIP limits, regularly reviewing and refining your process, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement within your team. It’s essential to encourage collaboration, effective communication, and a proactive mindset when dealing with identified issues and impediments. As Kanban is a highly adaptable method, be prepared to make adjustments to your board or processes to better accommodate your specific needs, goals, and industry requirements.

Most recommended books about Kanban

For deeper insights into Kanban, consider reading the following highly recommended books:

  1. Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry
  2. Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business by David J. Anderson
  3. Agile Project Management with Kanban by Eric Brechner
  4. Kanban in Action by Marcus Hammarberg and Joakim Sundén

Conclusion

Kanban’s adaptability, focus on continuous improvement, and ability to visualize workflows have made it an essential framework in various industries, especially software development. By understanding its principles, benefits, and best practices, teams can implement Kanban effectively to streamline processes, enhance communication and collaboration, and ultimately achieve better overall results.

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Back in 2013, I founded Echo with the simple business idea: "Connect great tech companies around the globe with the brightest software engineers in Eastern Europe." We've employed hundreds of talents so far and keep going.
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li-url Lou Reverchuk

IT Entrepreneur

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