What is a Kanban Agile Strategy?

Kanban is a popular framework used to implement agile software development. It requires real-time communication of capacity and full transparency of work.

Kanban is Japanese for “visual signal” or “card.” Toyota line-workers used a Kanban (i.e., an actual card) to signal steps in their manufacturing process. The system’s highly visual nature allowed teams to communicate more easily on what work needed to be done and when. It also standardized cues and refined processes, which helped to reduce waste and maximize value.

Put simply, Kanban helps teams be better at communication using visual management.

Does your team struggle with communication, causing issues such as duplication of effort, defects, and rework? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you aren’t alone. A vast majority of knowledge workers struggle with these very same problems.

Much of our information still comes our way as text on a screen. Emails, spreadsheets, task lists—text is everywhere. As knowledge workers know, textual information is not a one-size-fits-all communication vehicle. Its effectiveness is lower than you might think. Why?

A picture is worth a thousand words for scientific reasons: The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. 40 percent of all nerve fibers connected to the brain are linked to the retina. Visual information comprises 90 percent of the data that comes to our brain, suggesting that our neurological pathways might even prefer pictures over text.

In the past, Kanban helped workers harness the power of visual information by using sticky notes on a whiteboard to create a “picture” of their work. Today we can do this digitally using an issue tracking product, such as Jira by Atlassian. Seeing how your work flows within your team’s process lets you not only communicate status, but also give and receive context for the work. Kanban takes information that typically would be communicated via words and turns it into a visual representation.

Benefits of Kanban

Visualize Work

By creating a visual model of your work and workflow, you can observe the flow of work moving through your Kanban system. Making the work visible—along with blockers, bottlenecks, and queues—instantly leads to increased communication and collaboration.

Limit Work in Process

By limiting how much unfinished work is in process, you can reduce the time it takes an item to travel through the Kanban system. You can also avoid problems caused by task switching and reduce the need to constantly re-prioritize items.

Focus on Flow

By using work-in-process (WIP) limits and developing team-driven policies, you can optimize your Kanban system to improve the flow of work.

Continuous Improvement

Teams measure their effectiveness by tracking flow, quality, throughput, lead times, and more. Over time, using these measurements, you can change your processes to improve your team’s effectiveness.

Kanban vs Scrum

If you would like to learn more about Kanban vs Scrum methodologies here is a great article that covers both in further detail.

If you’d like to learn more about how CRi can help you maximize your team or project efficiency using Kanban or other Agile Strategies please contact our team or contact us at gig@clientresourcesinc.com.

Source: Brechner, Eric. Agile Project Management with Kanban Redmond: Microsoft Press, 2015. Print


Dehn Eisele

QA Engineer