Originally developed at Toyota in the 1950s to steer production, Kanban is used today by project managers in different fields to make projects faster and more efficient. It seeks to reduce lead times, the amount of work in process and to secure a continuous workflow. Work items are visualized on a ‘Kanban Board’ to give the team an overview of the progress and process. Work is pulled as capacity permits, rather than work being pushed into the process when requested.

  • The most popular way of doing this is by manually advancing sticky notes in different colors from ‘To-Do’ to ‘Doing’ to ‘Done’ columns on large whiteboards. Today there are also web-based solutions for Kanban Boards, but traditional whiteboards are often preferred in order to visualize the ongoing workflow for everyone.
  • The sticky notes symbolize a task that is broken down into a manageable amount of work, mostly between two or three hours. A daily 15-minute stand-up meeting informs every team member about the current status of all tasks and offers an opportunity to talk about it. The level of detail is down to the users, but in general the Kanban Board should not contain too many parallel tasks. This way, it is ensured that tasks flow smoothly and without delay over the board.
  • Kanban’s flexibility allows it to be overlaid onto existing workflows, systems and processes without disrupting what is already successfully in place. Kanban can be easily implemented in any type of organization. The method is designed to meet minimal resistance and thus encourages small, continuous, and incremental changes to the current process.


Further readings

  • Anderson, D. (2010). Kanban: Successful evolutionary change for your technology business. Seattle, WA: Blue Hole Press.