Today we focus on Kanban, a very simple workflow method, created to improve and maintain a high level of production, and today, just like Scrum, it helps teams work together more harmoniously and effectively

The Agile methodologies might seem a bit confusing, especially if your new to them. This is why it is equally important to understand what something is and what it’s NOT. For instance, to understand Kanban you need to know that it is not a methodology, tool or framework, actually, it had nothing to do with software development back in the 1950s, when it was created.

Kanban is a Japanese word for signboard or billboard, used to describe the lean manufacturing techniques developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, for managing the workloads: the emphasis is on continual delivery while not overloading the development team. This concept has expanded outside that industry, and adopted as a workflow method for software teams and businesses.

Taiichi Ohno, Inventor of the Toyota Production System (photo via Flickr)
Taiichi Ohno, Inventor of the Toyota Production System (photo via Flickr)

Kanban is based on a simple concept: Work In Progress should be limited and something new should be started only when an existing piece of work is delivered. All the work is organized on a Kanban Board, where every work item passes through from left to right: you pull your work items along through the to do, doing, done columns.

Kanban board used by Corporate communication team in Neomobile
Kanban board used by Corporate communication team in Neomobile

Even though it looks like such a small change, it changes everything about a business: it is an approach to change management. It isn’t a software development or project management lifecycle or process. Kanban is an approach to introducing change to an existing project lifecycle or project management methodology.

And the best thing about Kanban? You can start using it with whatever you are doing right now. This is why it found its way into teams that have nothing to do with software development. As pointed out by Kniberg & Skarin in their “Kanban and Scrum – making the most of both“, Kanban is being introduced as part of a Lean initiative to morph the culture of organizations and encourage continuous improvement. Because Work In Progress is limited in a Kanban system, anything that becomes blocked for any reason tends to clog up the system. If enough work items become blocked the whole process grinds to a halt. This has the effect of focusing the whole team and the wider organization on solving the problem, unblocking the item and restoring flow.

Here at Neomobile numerous tech and non-tech teams are adopting Kanban,  and they all agree on that it promotes collaboration and encourages active learning and improving by defining and redefining the best possible team workflow.

Check out some of the key tips in our new infograhics and start using Kanban today!




Kanban and Scrum – making the most of both, by Henrik Kniberg & Mattias Skarin

Kanban Fundamentals