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We learn about the Kanban framework which was developed by Toyota as part of the company’s lean manufacturing practices.

Kanban is one of the most popular frameworks used in Agile development and is originally a method for scheduling work, which was developed by Toyota as part of the company’s lean manufacturing practices.

It has since evolved into a broader work management process applicable to software development. Kanban is one of the most popular methods amongst Lean teams as it is highly visual. Most of the Lean teams use Kanban to visualize and actively manage the creation of products with an emphasis on continual delivery without overburdening the development team.

Kanban initially emerged from the Japanese word, ‘Kan’ which means ‘Visual’ and ‘ban’ means ‘card’.

Principles of Kanban

Kanban is based on the following five principles:

1. Visualize the work

Use a large whiteboard or wall to track your progress in accomplishing the work. You can write individual work tasks on index cards or Post-It notes, and then arrange the cards or notes into three columns on the board: ‘to-do,’ ‘doing,’ and ‘done.’ (More columns can be used if a more elaborate set of status categories is needed.) As each task is completed, the corresponding card or Post-It note is moved from its current column into the next column (such as from ‘doing’ to ‘done’).

2. Limit work in progress (WIP)

Limit the amount of work that is being done at any one point in time, which means that you complete a task before moving on to the next one. For example, you may decide to limit your ‘to-do’ column to a maximum of three items and then not add any new items until one of the existing items is completed (and is moved to the ‘done’ column).

3. Make policies explicit

Clearly identify and document the team’s working ‘rules,’ which can be printed and posted on the wall near the task-tracking board. Your ‘three or less’ WIP limitation is an example of one such rule or policy.

4. Manage flow

Manage your workflow by moving index cards or Post-It notes from left to right on the whiteboard, which corresponds to successive stages of completion. You would of course need to adhere to any limits you may have set (such as the ‘three WIP maximum’ rule).

5. Apply continuous improvement

Take a step back and review your process on a regular basis.
  • Are your WIP limits correct and appropriate?
  • Are you missing any steps?


Below are additional resources for your consideration as you explore and learn more about the Kanban approach:

What are your thoughts?

  • Can you think of any examples either in your experience or one you have heard of where you think this framework might be appropriate? Try to justify your answer.
  • Take a look at the responses from your peers. Do you agree with their responses? If not, explain why.
Use the Comments section below and let us know your thoughts. Try to respond to at least one other post.

Once you are happy with your contribution, click the Mark as complete button to check the step off, then you can move to the next step in which we look at Crystal.

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