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…you are doing what you are doing now, respecting the current process, roles, responsibilities & titles. Political, technological, organizational, market pressure is increasing—the sense of urgency to change is increasing.

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Increasing your learning power as an individual, group, team, unit, organization, or society gives meaning and sizzle to life.

install evolutionary DNA into an organization or community

Kanban’s essence: pragmatic, actionable, evidence-based guidance".


Agree to pursue evolution at all levels and across all disciplines in order to institutionalize reflection and retrospection in your organization. Next, use the kanban core propertiesvisual workflow, work in progress limit, managed flow, explicit policy, lead by example, and broccoli of loops—to get going.

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In China, "Kanban" simply means "looking at the board."

The Principles Of The Kanban Method

David J. Anderson observed 5 core properties to be present in each successful implementation of Kanban. These have become know as the Principles of Kanban.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
Arthur Ashe

First adopt the foundational principles…

  1. Start with what you do now—Respect the current process, roles, responsibilities & titles
    On May 12, 2014, The Universe sent out the following note:
    The long and short of it goes something like this… When one stops looking for the quick and easy way, Martien, and just deals with what's already on their plate, the quick and easy way soon finds them.
    That one makes me hungry,
    —The Universe
    Actually, Martien, what could be quicker than beginning with where you are, or easier than starting with what you've got? Oh my, the wonder of it all…
  2. Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change [Actually, “Agree to pursue evolution” is more appropriate, as evolution itself is about incremental change. –Martien]

Then use the Kanban Core Properties…

  1. visual workflow
  2. work in progress limit
  3. managed flow
  4. explicit policy
  5. lead by example
  6. broccoli of loops—using models & the scientific method

To get started:

  1. Walk the line—Staple yourself to an item and follow its steps through its life.
  2. Visualize the workflow—Draw the flow of steps that are taken as a sequence of columns. Use common sense to merge columns.
  3. Track all work—For a couple of weeks, put all work as individual items on the board, and track them as they progress.
  4. Limit Work in Progress—After some time, and using common sense, put limits on some columns (and swim lanes, if you have them) to increase flow and throughput. Tighten up the limits over time, until it starts hurting. Use the pain to trigger a conversation on how to get rid of the pain while maintaining the limit. Repeat.

kanban is there to facilitate decisions.


Kanban for maintenance

Maintenance department (9 fte) has 4 types of work:

  • incidents (errors in production, from small to mayor issues)
  • change requests
  • problems: problems are structural solutions to recurring incidents resulting in a change request, solution is not known beforehand
  • service requests: query requests for certain data, some data error analysis etc.

Some numbers: type of work average amount hours spent per type of work Percentage of total work spent incidents 15 per day 10 min – 30 hours, 1 a 1,5 hour on average 34% change requests 14 per month 40 hours on average 38% problems 3 per month wide range (solution unknown beforehand) 2,5% service requests 3 per day 1 – 8 hours 12% 12% general support

Two service domains, using swimming lanes:

  1. Office applications; and
  2. Logistical applications.

Per swimming lane, they sacrify one person as ‘incident master’ for the day, eliminating interrupts for the rest of the team. Other team member jump in when either or both get overloaded with work. There is no boom buffer agreement.

What types of work would you put up on the Kanban board?


To get Kanban implemented properly it requires middle management engagement, like at the director level, or in a small company it requires senior management.

It is helping managers to focus on blocking issues in order to get them unblocked faster and have everybody get on their work.

Look at the current span of your political control; then once you have built more political capital, you can get the upstream and downstream later.


In any process there is a need to build social capital, and you do that using methods from sociology for building trust, for example by providing greater transparency. People trust something when they understand how it works, when they can ask "that work I gave you two weeks ago, where is it now?" Trust is also developed incrementally, and, for neuropsychological reasons, small promises that are delivered frequently build trust faster than large commitments delivered infrequently. So delivering according to your targets build trust. That's how you generate momentum in a bottom up approach.


Ask for the moonOrganisational change is hard and complex. Making sure the essential start conditions are in place boosts the chance for success. Some organisations are unfit to start such a change, so any effort is just a waste.Secure the essential ingredients for a successful agile adoption are in place, like executive support. assessment, cross-functional community, an awesome workplace, training & coaching, chartering, retroprostpectives, and coach-the-coaches.
Blocker waiting roomContinue working while waiting on external evens, e.g. answers from customers or third parties.Make blocked items stand out and move them to a special subcell in the current column, release them as soon as possible and continue working on them before pulling in new work into this column.
Capacity planning
Flow master
Goldilocks sizerWorking in flow is satisfying and productive.Split too big and join too small items into just the right size to enable flow.
Honest time
Ka-ching a day makes product owner hurrayCreating value for someone else brings joy and happiness for both the creator and the requestor. There is so much to do. What can you best do?Every day, focus on getting something ready to use for someone else. Set a work in progress limit to increase the number of daily ka-ching moments.
KanbanIncreasing your learning power as an individual, group, team, unit, organization, or society gives meaning and sizzle to life.Institutionalize reflection and retrospection at all levels and across all disciplines.
Life is a broccoli
Metric drives behavior
ObeyaA thriving environment where everyone is doing the right things in the right way.Allocate a big room for the whole team and use visual management.
Only move forwardCollecting good and self-generated metric data can generate improvement actions that increase productivity.Only promote items—never back them up to a previous state—and mark the item blocked until all earlier work completes.
Physical information radiators
Retrospective meeting
Slack speeds upgetting more done in less timesecure slack time in your system
Spice girls questionOnce something is flowing across the Kanban board you don't ever want it to be discarded and waste scarce resources and capacity.Ask the Product Owner, “Tell me what you want, what you really really want.”
Story splitterGet a big thing done.Split it into bite-sized chunks that each deliver value.
Unique specific tasksFeeling comfortable about how to get a thing doneSplit a work item into unique tasks specific to this work item.
Visual workflow
Work in progress limit





Quotes & Tweets

  • David J. Anderson
    • Agile coaches with a team focus tend to coach shallow Kanban, many don't even know what deep Kanban is, or our system thinking approach.
    • Shallow Kanban produces small local improvements & relief from abusive environment. It rarely improves business performance or customer satisfaction.
    • Lean is the destination. Kanban is the way.
    • Kanban consistent benefits reported: improved collaboration & communication; dramatic improvement in product quality; double delivery rate.
    • Consistent opportunity for improvement in Kanban depth: visualize real business risks; use metrics; allocate capacity across risks.
    • Deep Kanban is externally focused service delivery using a systems thinking approach. Shallow Kanban tends to be internally focused.
    • Aborted Kanban initiatives happen when organizations try deep Kanban without proper training. The fact more deep Kanban is happening is good .
  • Klaus Leopold
    • Kanban focuses on system improvements and not on teams. You can use Kanban for teams but you will get less benefit out of it.
  • Hågan Forss
    • Managers should be coaches and have A3 as part of their standard work.
  • Steve Tendon
    • Kanban also brings about natural team formation due to deeper social interactions that emerge. Positive side effect.


Kanban Antipatterns



There is a plethora of agile tools.



  • InfoQ » Arne Roock » Implementing Kanban in Practice
    • There is just one prerequisite for change, there needs to be what leadership authority John Kotter calls in his book by the same title "a sense of urgency".
    • before you start introducing Kanban, you need to agree on the major goals. That means we need to have management support.
    • We cannot see our work, and that means it is very hard to improve things. create visibility for the end-to-end flow
    • What will work is if you achieve better results and make them transparent, people will become curious, and curiosity is a very powerful tool.
    • distributed kanban can use a remote buddy
      • it sounds like a lot of overhead and it is. But you need to have this communication. But you will observe that now the buddies will start communicating, not just about moving tickets but about things like “I am out next week on vacation, so please remind the other team members to do this and that.”
      • people are communicating across the team boundaries and that is really valuable.
    • When people are only communicating via the tool, you’re nailed!
    • There is a rule called "three by three; if you're standing 3 meters from the Kanban board, then in 3 seconds you want to know what is going on. You can't read every card but you can see where things are piling up, and where people have nothing to do. But if you have too many columns or too many swim lanes then you start to get lost.
    • The other thing you referred to is an item that is blocked but is not an expedite. I am waiting for another team because I need information or something from them. I can start another item and break the WIP limit, or I can use this “slack capacity” slack speeds upslow down to speed up