Blog Six Sigma What is Kanban?

What is Kanban?

In today’s Agile world where waterfall becomes complete, not for many customers, Kanban is a very common term. Many of us assume from the word itself that it’s a board which is managed to work in agile environment. Though it’s not wrong to say Kanban is a board or informational card, there are more bites to it.

This concept has been publicized by Toyota by introducing and implementing successful Just in Time concepts. Just In Time concept emphasizes on no/minimal inventories, which did wonders when implemented across organizations in terms of cost savings. As it’s clear from JIT concept, Kanban is exploration and founded on Lean methodology.

To simplify the understanding of Kanban, it’s a queue based flow where there are different control loops. To succeed or to implement Kanban, one has to limit the Work In Progress through this flow and keep JIT in mind.

Literature says that “The Kanban model, is based on the notion that the team works on the appropriate number of features through completion. When the team is ready to begin on the next feature, they pull a feature from a small queue of potential work. This allows for proper management of both selecting what to work on and how to do the work”. This is a Pull based model where one pulls the feature from a small queue once existing feature is completed. Definitely if one looks overall on Kanban, it’s always emphasizing on the visualization and pull based management. From a simple concept to a management level methodology, Kanban has evolved to a great extent. Bottlenecks in the flow or pipe is something which restricts the flow. The overall performance of the flow is dependent on how smoothly we are progressing on flow. More the bottlenecks, slower the output from the flow. To understand this point, we can assume that we have 5 testers who can work on 5 features but team only has 2 developers. In this scenario, team shall not be able to leverage and give the throughput as 5, rather the throughput can be of maximum 2.

In the book “Kanban – Successful Evolutionary Change for your Technology Business” author has beautifully explained the principles and general practices of Kanban. This is a newly added book in the reference material for PMI-ACP ® exam. Principles and practices are stated as below:


  • Start with what you do now
  • Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change
  • Respect the current process, roles, responsibilities & titles
  • Encourage acts of leadership at all levels in your organization


  • Visualize (the work, workflow and business risks)
  • Limit WIP
  • Manage Flow
  • Make Process Explicit
  • Implement Feedback Loop
  • Improve Collaboratively, Evolve Experimentally (using models & the scientific method)

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About Mark Oswald

Mark is an experienced software engineer and technology blogger. He has over five years of experience in writing in different technological domains. Writing is his passion and he contributes regularly to the Whizlabs blog to share his knowledge.
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