Are You Applying Kanban for the Wrong Reason?

Are You Applying Kanban for the Wrong Reason?

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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In the most basic terms, Kanban is an innovative technique that is used in project management. The technique allows teams to be more productive and makes the processes much more streamlined. The word “Kanban” derives its origins from the Japanese “kan” which means “visual” and the word “ban” which means “card.”

Kanban has become a highly popular Agile tool. It is widely used by businesses and is particularly useful for certain software projects. However, there are several situations where Kanban use does not match the instance for which it is being used.

The Kanban Approach

Kanban basically helps manage the creation of products while emphasizing on continuous delivery. It aims to relieve the development team of any burdens. Kanban, like Scrum, helps teams work in a more efficient way.

The process involves three key principles.

  • It is important to visualize what you are doing at present. Considering all business aspects and items in the context of each other can be a very informative exercise.
  • Put a limit on the amount of work in progress you are handling. This will help enforce a balance so teams do not overstrain and work too much at any time.
  • The third aspect enhances flow and involves picking up the next thing highest in the list of backlogs when the task at hand is finished.

Basically, the approach helps foster continuous collaboration and encourage active learning. It helps define the best possible workflow for maximal efficiency.

The approach, therefore, is expected to have several advantages.

  • It results in shorter cycle times and timely feature deliveries.
  • Kanban is ideal in environments where the priorities keep changing continuously.
  • It helps to respond to change in an efficient manner.
  • Reduces the waste and activities that do not add any value to the business.
  • Motivates and empowers teammates who perform higher by having rapid feedback loops in place.
  • Balances demand and throughput. This helps work on the most customer value-centric features.

Wrong Reasons to Use Kanban

Businesses might be using the Kanban approach for all the wrong reasons without even realizing it. We examine below several such instances in which the approach probably isn’t the best fit.

  • Kanban is not the best way to deal with varied story sizes. The teams should instead be taught to split the stories into smaller tasks.
  • Using Kanban will not increase your speed with which you generally progress through your tasks. If you are unable to finish a story in one iteration, that certainly does not spell out a need to use this approach.
  • It is sometimes easier to form cross-functional teams and ending multi-tasking approaches. Kanban might not always be the best solution from team stability considerations.
  • Kanban’s simplicity is often the reason why businesses use it as a solution to all management challenges and issues. You will undoubtedly have to work hard and face a lot of problems.

The Right Reasons to Use Kanban

Let’s now examine closely the right situations where Kanban can be used to increase efficiency, improve processes, and remove waste while responding to ever-changing priorities.

  • Allows priorities to be continuously changed. This is something Scrum does not lend itself to easily.
  • Helps release items at any time, which is not often possible with other iterative methods and techniques.
  • Helps realize and visualize the best workflows. The approach can be used when a business needs insights into its current operations and the stage the project is presently in.


Kanban is easily used in a number of business situations but is not the one size fits all solution for all business challenges. It is easily used when there is a need to model the whole value stream or when there is a need to respond rapidly to continuously changing priorities.

It ultimately helps foster continuous improvement. The best way to choose the ideal method for business process improvement is to first consider what it is that you wish to improve. This will help choose the most suitable approach rather than using one tool to solve all problems.

The post Are You Applying Kanban for the Wrong Reason? appeared first on Shmula.

By: Shmula Contributor
Posted: November 1, 2018, 3:00 pm

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