I came, I saw, I Kanban!

Veni, vidi, vici
Julius Caesar

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi(if you can pronounce his name without hearing it you get bonus points!) is one of the founders of Positive Psychology. Many of us have heard of him from his Ted Talk Flow, the secret to happiness. He finds his way into studying people and when they are happy. He finds that we can get into what he calls “flow” where things happen automatically for us. Kanban also focuses on the flow of the team and work through it. It does this by trying to eliminate obstacles and deliver products.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a framework that aids in development that focuses on increasing the flow of products by enhancing communication and transparency. This aligns with the Agile Manifesto. The use of a Kanban board shows the status of the items being worked. Instead of needing a status meeting to know where items are we can check the Kanban board. The process has its start in the Toyota manufacturing process in the 1950’s. The principles that help to manufacture cars achieve efficiency also helps deliver new software products quickly as well.


Have you ever tried to check your email, read a user story, and ask your teammates where they want to go for lunch all at the same time? A few minutes later you wonder if you completed any of these tasks. Humans are bad multi-taskers and teams have the same issue. Focus is where we can get things done. Kanban has our teams set WIP or Work In Progress limits. These are different for each team. Kanban Tool shares two important questions to ask to determine this. How many people do we have on our team? How many things do we want them to work on at a time? Finding an answer to these can help us create limits to the amount of work we have open at any one time.


There are many benefits to Kanban as they point out here. The shorter cycle times help the team deliver features faster. As priorities change Kanban teams can be more responsive. Using a Kanban board creates a visualization of the work in the system. It removes any guessing, shares information, and creates transparency. The activity of visualizing the workflow with the Kanban board also illuminates any bottlenecks. These quickly become evident that a process needs to be changed.


Kanban is quite simple to set up. The first thing is the Kanban board. Now technically you can just take some wall space and create some lanes. Although it might work better with a board. The basic lanes are To-Do, Doing, and Done. Of course, your team can make it more complex if you like. I saw one for a client that had a Code Review lane too. I suggest you start simple first. Add one or take one away if it works better for you. Next, you can get some cards or sticky notes to write the work on. Simple is always better. We shouldn’t need a lot of training to understand the system.


Kanban is compared to Scrum often. Where Scrum focuses on the iteration or time-box Kanban focuses on flow. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to complete the task. Scrum may have a two-week Sprint that the work is to be completed in. Kanban has no time-box that constrains the work. This can be a good and bad thing for teams. If the team has the discipline to keep on the task it is fine. Scrum has some separate roles and Kanban does not. Kanban has all team members doing the work. So the approach is different too.


I know some of us like to look for the differences between Scrum and Kanban. I think they work well together. And so does Steve Porter. He wrote an article for Scrum.org entitled “Scrum and Kanban stronger together”. He stated, ” It’s time to recognize the strengths inherent in the practices of Kanban and to explore how our two approaches can connect to produce better outcomes.” I think Steve hits on the right point here. We need to use the practices of each to make the outcome better for the team and the organization.

Kanban has a lot to offer teams. It can be used by itself to bring focus on the work. Reducing the Work In Progress or WIP to a few items can help to complete the most important work. The many benefits it offers like make teams faster and more responsive are huge. Visualizing the workflow can help people spot issues and track their work. It can also be used along with Scrum too. So try to incorporate Kanban in your tools for teams.

Originally posted on MyITCareerCoach.com