Using Kanban for Software Development

Instructor: Stephen Meyer

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

There are various methodologies that can be used to implement Agile. One of the most common and easiest to use is Kanban. Learn how to use Kanban for software development.

Basis of Kanban

Agile has continued to grow and Lewis has taken notice. He wants to adopt Agile for his software company. He is drawn to the idea of breaking down the project work and timeline and being more responsive to change. His plan is to use Kanban, an Agile methodology that emphasizes a continuous workflow and needs to get his team on board. He starts by explaining where it comes from and its main principles.


The philosophy behind Kanban can be traced back to a supermarket. Specifically, the root is the supermarket's just-in-time approach to inventory. Rather than stockpile inventory, products are ordered so they arrive just in time to restock the supermarket. This approach reduces waste, eliminates logjams, and focuses on doing things only as they are needed.

Toyota took this philosophy and applied it to their factories. Each group on the assembly line used the just-in-time approach, requesting the preceding groups advance items forward only as capacity became available. This request was made using a card, or Kanban (which is Japanese for card).


The elements of a just-in-time approach and physical cards showcase the principles of Kanban. These principles include a visual display of work, a continuous flow and delivery, efficiency, and being responsive to change. Each of these is foundational to Kanban and they form the framework for it.

One of the main principles of Kanban is visually displaying work. This makes the work items accessible and enables them to be seen by everyone. They can be reviewed and engaged with at any point. Additionally, having work items displayed visually helps keep people focused on the work at hand.

Another key aspect of Kanban is a continuous flow and delivery of work. There are no specific timeframes for when work items are taken on or completed. Rather, work items are kept in prioritized order and as they are progressed, new items are taken on. When work items are completed, they are released immediately.

Directly related to the continuous flow and delivery of work is the principle of efficiency. Efficiency specifically refers to completing work in the shortest time frame possible. The key is completing work. Using a continuous flow does not just mean continuing to start additional items but finishing the items taken on. They should move through the flow and make it all the way to the end.

The final principle of Kanban, which is a significant aspect of Agile in general, is being responsive to change. The items that have been taken into the flow should not change. However, the remaining work items that are prioritized and waiting to be taken on can be changed at any point. This allows for flexibility and for lessons to be learned along the way.

Using Kanban

Once Lewis and his team have an understanding of the origin and basis of Kanban, he moves on to how it can be used. It is important to know about Kanban, but this knowledge is most valuable when it is used for Kanban implementation. The framework used for implementing Kanban is based on the principles behind it.


There are two visual components for displaying work that are specific to the Kanban framework. The first component is project requirements, written as user stories. These are brief, high-level descriptions of desired functionality for specific users. It is important that they are brief because they are written on index cards and displayed on a Kanban board. The Kanban board is the most identifiable aspect of Kanban. It displays lanes for points of progress, such as to do, doing, and done.

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