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Kanban: Process, Methodology & Rules

Kanban: Process, Methodology & Rules
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  • 0:04 Definition and Origin
  • 1:09 Kanban Process
  • 3:27 Kanban Methodology & Rules
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Meyer

Stephen has worked as a Project Manager and is PMP certified, as well as certified by the Scrum Alliance.

Many variations of Agile use short, repeated intervals to complete portions of project work within groups. By contrast, Kanban uses a continuous flow to complete project work items quickly and independently. Learn the process, methodology, and rules of Kanban.

Definition and Origin

Linda's software company has continued to grow, and it's resulted in an expanded customer base and larger project team. She needs a more sustainable approach to their work and wants to use a project methodology moving forward, and she wants to use Kanban. Her team is wary that they will be restricted in what they do best. Most of them did not even know that Kanban was a word. Linda is hopeful that Kanban will complement their current approach and make it more efficient.

Kanban, a form of agile project methodology created by business author and consultant David J. Anderson, focuses on a continuous flow of work that keeps the amount of work being done at any given time consistent with the team's capacity. The word Kanban, synonymous with 'card', is taken from Toyota's 'just in time' approach to manufacturing. This approach only allows items to advance in the manufacturing chain if there is capacity available in the next part of the chain. This is made known by passing a card, or Kanban, from one part of the chain to another. Kanban attempts to apply this 'just in time' approach to software development.

Kanban Process

Once Linda has defined Kanban for her team, she discusses some key elements of the process. These include things like visual representations of and focus on current work, work-in-process limits, and continuous improvement. Some of these elements will improve how her team works, some will reinforce positive things they are already doing, and some will protect the team from issues and inefficiencies.

One of the important elements of the Kanban process is a visual representation of the work. This typically involves a board where work items are written on post-it notes and placed in progress lanes, such as 'To Do', 'Doing', and 'Done'. 'Doing' could be broken down further into 'Development' and 'Testing'. The visual helps keep the team focused, another key element of the Kanban process. The board only contains current work items, these being the only things the team should be working on. Multitasking is, more often than not, inefficient because it is much more difficult to keep switching between work items than it is to focus on one item at a time. Linda's team is consistently focused on current work, and this is reinforced by the addition of the visual representation.

Kanban Board

Another important element of Kanban is the use of WIP or work-in-process limits. These are a limit on the number of work items that can be in any part of the process. An item cannot advance to the next phase of the process unless that phase is below its WIP limit. For example, if development has a WIP of 5 and testing has a WIP of 3, a work item cannot advance from development to testing if there are 3 work items already in testing, even if development is complete on 5 work items. Linda's team expresses concern over the element of a WIP limit, anticipating bottlenecks that will slow the team down. However, the WIP limit does not create bottlenecks; it makes them more obvious.

Highlighting bottlenecks and other inefficiencies leads to the final element of Kanban, which is continuous improvement. This element is less obvious in a continuous flow because there is no designated starting and stopping point or formal time for reflection. However, the team should consistently identify inefficiencies and address them. Some potential areas of evaluation include how long it takes a work item to be completed, or how many bugs are associated with a work item. These can help identify if work is taking too long or moving too quickly.

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