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What Is Kanban? An Introduction to Kanban Methodology

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What Is Kanban? An Introduction to Kanban Methodology

The following article is part of the self-preparation for the modern BVOP® Scrum Master Certification program.

The Kanban methodology helps manage product development, focusing on continuous delivery and not overburdening agile software development.

  1. The purpose of the Kanban system
  2. Kanban is an Agile style of working
  3. The Kanban Board
    1. What is a card?
    2. What is a column?
    3. Work In Progress.
  4. Scrum Board
  5. The main differences between Scrum and Kanban
  6. Kanban or Scrum
    1. Kanban the right way
    2. Kanban is a flow of work that is ongoing
    3. Kanban may exhaust teams

Kanban is a Just in Time (JIT) production planning system. Taiichi Ohno, a Toyota industrial engineer, developed Kanban to improve production efficiency. It is one of the methods of achieving JIT.

Kanban is perceived as a useful tool for maintaining the manufacturing system as a whole, and a great way to encourage improvement. Problem areas are highlighted by measuring execution time and cycle time of overall process steps. One of the main advantages of Kanban is to set a maximum limit for work that is in the process of being created and completed (Work in Progress).

The purpose of the Kanban system

The purpose of the Kanban system is to limit the accumulation of surplus stocks at each point of production. Exceeding a limit means inefficiencies that must be resolved by teams and management.

In software engineering, Kanban is used to limit the work in progress. These limitations aim to reduce the number of defects and the stress on teams and increase their focus. By introducing work limitations and minimizing obstacles, overall productivity should increase.

Kanban is an Agile style of working

Kanban is a popular Agile working style used in software development. Kanban requires team capacity communication in real-time and full transparency of work. The tasks of the teams are visually presented on a Kanban board, which allows the team members to see the status of work at any time.

The Kanban Board

The Kanban Dashboard, or Board, is an Agile project management tool designed to visualize work, limit Work in Progress, and increase efficiency. Kanban boards use cards and columns to help teams engage with the right amount of work.

What is a card?

The "card" is a visualization of the "task" (the effort it takes to get the job done). It may contain the name of the work required (effort), a description, and other elements such as the "type" of the effort.

What is a column?

The "column" is a very simple visual vertical column containing cards.

Each column should contain cards but in a limited amount.

Tasks in progress (Column 1)

Tasks in a testing (Column 2)

Waiting for approval (Column 3)

Task 1 Task 2 Task 7
Task 3 Task 4  
Task 5 Task 6  

In the example table above, the logic stated is as follows:

The first column 1 lists the cards (work, tasks, efforts) that are currently being developed.

In the second column, some cards (tasks) are already completed but expect quality control specialists to confirm that there are no problems with them.

The third column contains the cards, which are tested for defects and are awaiting approval from someone.

These columns are just an example. The team invents their names, determines the number of cards and columns that the Kanban dashboard will have.

Each column represents some logical steps in the workflow.

There can be four, five, or even more columns in the dashboard if each task has to go through every stage that the team has defined.

It is logical that the more steps there are in the process, the more complex is the team workflow. An optimal workflow requires a balance between performance and simplicity.

Work In Progress.

These are the cards that are currently being developed.

Kanban puts a limit on the workflow by simply restricting the number of cards that can be stacked in a single column. If a wooden board on which notes are attached for each task is used, the column cannot be infinitely high. Also, the whole team should know how many cards (tasks) are allowed in one column.

If Kanban Board software is used, the software itself may limit the number of cards.

The teams decide for themselves how many cards (tasks) are in the columns, based on the amount of work that can be done.

The teams decide whether to use the Kanban method of work. It will be a mistake if such a decision is made by senior management, especially if there is no in-depth knowledge of ​​the day-to-day work of the teams, their processes, needs, problems, competence, weaknesses, and strengths.

The same goes for using Scrum. Teams discuss how and most of all, why to use it. It will be practical to experiment and go through different ways of working in order to decide which one is best. Sometimes a working method will no longer be helpful, and decisions can be made to change it.

Work in progress includes not only the currently executed tasks but these for testing and approval.

In Scrum, Agile, and all other work methods, this idea must be kept in mind.

When a card is completely finished, it must be removed from the dashboard and if necessary a new one added in its place.

Scrum Board

When working with Scrum, the board usually has no limit on the number of tasks. The team plans the number of "cards" (items, tasks) during the Sprint Planning meeting.

Whether working with Scrum or Kanban, teams must regularly check performance. Do the teams handle the planned tasks? Are there too many, too few cards to place, or is workload precision achieved?

Validation and change are at the heart of the whole Agile culture.

The main differences between Scrum and Kanban

Scrum has sprints and roles (Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development team).

There are no sprints or roles at Kanban.

In both cases, the teams are self-organizing.

The Kanban board is used continuously throughout the product development lifecycle by simply replacing the cards.

At Scrum, at the end of each sprint, the dashboard is renewed. No new cards (items) are added until the end of the sprint. Cards are also often found in columns and have a corresponding status.

Kanban or Scrum

When it comes to Agile practices, some organizations explicitly use Kanban for some of their projects. Others explicitly prefer Scrum.

When an organization states out loud that it is using Kanban, this is likely due to some of the following factors that are unrelated to the Kanban practice itself:

  • The organization does not have enough staff capacity, and the teams are too small.
  • The organization does not have sufficient management experience.
  • The organization aims to save money.
  • The organization and teams practice micromanagement. These manifestations can often be generated by senior management.

Moreover, these probable causes are even more likely if the Kanban approach is practiced in organizations that do not clearly express Agile production methods or do not have a transparent Agile culture.

Kanban the right way

There is always the possibility that an organization will use Kanban for the intended purpose, and not for the aforementioned negative reasons.

Using Kanban to organize the work and help the team means a high Agile culture, as well as great discipline, self-organization, and competence.

Kanban is a flow of work that is ongoing

Kanban is a workflow in which there are no "sprints". Kanban is a flow of work that is ongoing.

Kanban may exhaust teams

BVOP focuses attention on the fact that teams can feel exhausted over time.

The lack of some periodicity and cycles can bring about the feeling of endless and unfinished work. Energy and motivation can be reduced.

Scrum offers sprints. These are equal intervals of time that can psychologically satisfy the need for a beginning and an end.

The periodicity and the end goal of a sprint can bring a sense of accomplishment and completion. Such recurrence helps for optimal mental dynamics and satisfaction with the goal achieved.

BVOP recommends that the choice between Kanban or Scrum is made after both work methods are tested. A periodic opinion review of all team members can help decide whether a migration to another style of work is necessary.

The following issues related to chapter "Kanban" are included in the certification exam. The sequence of questions is presented in the table.
The data is current as of April 17, 2024, 9:24 pm

ID Issue Time Category
0 Kanban or Scrum 60 sec SM, PO
1 Scrum Board 60 sec SM, PO
2 Kanban may exhaust teams 60 sec SM, PO
3 Kanban is a flow of work that is ongoing 60 sec SM, PO
4 The purpose of the Kanban system 60 sec SM, PO
5 What is a column? 60 sec SM, PO
6 Kanban the right way 60 sec SM, PO
7 Work In Progress. 60 sec SM, PO
8 Kanban is an Agile style of working 60 sec SM, PO
9 The Kanban Board 60 sec SM, PO
10 The main differences between Scrum and Kanban 60 sec SM, PO
11 What is a card? 60 sec SM, PO

Comments from the BVOP™ community on "Kanban"

Comparisons between Kanban and Scrum

Kanban is a system developed by Toyota's industrial engineer Taiichi Ohno, which seeks to improve efficiency in the planning of continuous production or so-called Just in Time (JIT). Kanban is an effective tool for constant maintenance of the flow of tasks and their constant improvement. And at the same time, teams don't get more work than they can do. All this is done with two of the principles of Kanban and they are visualization of work and establishing a maximum limit of work that is in the process of creation and completion (Work in Progress).

This model of operation is often compared to Scrum, which is wrong. Scrum is a framework made up of roles, events, and artifacts. Scrum gives you the independence to determine the working methods that would suit your specific circumstances. Scrum divides the phases of your project into small pieces that can be completed by different teams in an organization over a period. These pieces of time are called Sprints.

Although the two terms are different, let's still point out the similarities and differences between Scrum and Kanban. Both frameworks use so-called dashboards to visualize tasks in the work cycle itself. Scrum has the so-called sprints or more precisely certain periods in which the progress of work is observed. Sprints length can vary from 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the project itself. Additionally, the team members organize meetings on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, during which the tasks and problems are discussed. Also, Scrum includes roles such as Scrum Master and Product Owner. When working with Kanban, sprints, and roles do not exist. Also, the tasks are limited because it is believed that work is more efficient and reduces the risk of defects. When operating with Scrum, the number of tasks is not limited.


Kanban is a methodology for managing product development with a focus on continuous delivery and avoiding overburdening agile software development. It is a Just in Time (JIT) production planning system developed by Taiichi Ohno, a Toyota industrial engineer, to improve production efficiency. Kanban is useful for maintaining the manufacturing system as a whole and identifying problem areas through measuring execution and cycle times. Its main advantage is setting a maximum limit for work in progress.

Kanban aims to limit surplus stocks and work in progress to increase productivity and reduce inefficiencies and stress on teams.

Kanban is a popular Agile style used in software development. It requires real-time communication and full transparency of work, visually presented on a Kanban board.

Kanban Board is an Agile management tool that visualizes work, limits Work in Progress, and increases efficiency. It uses cards and columns to help teams engage with the right amount of work.

A card represents a task and includes the name, description, and type of effort. A column is a vertical section that holds a limited number of cards.

The Kanban dashboard has columns representing logical steps in the workflow. The number of columns and cards can vary. Completed tasks await quality control confirmation in the second column, while the third has cards tested for defects awaiting approval. The team determines the names and number of columns. A complex workflow has more steps, but an optimal workflow balances performance and simplicity.

Kanban limits workflow by restricting the number of cards in a column. Teams decide how many cards to use based on their work capacity. Senior management should not decide on Kanban or Scrum without understanding the team's work processes. Experimentation may lead to changing work methods. Work in progress includes tasks for testing and approval. Completed cards should be removed from the dashboard.

Scrum and Kanban teams use boards to track tasks, with Scrum teams planning the number of cards during Sprint Planning. Regular performance checks are important to ensure workload precision. Agile culture values validation and change.

Scrum and Kanban differ in their use of sprints and roles. Scrum has them, while Kanban does not. Both rely on self-organizing teams. Kanban uses a continuous board, while Scrum renews the dashboard at the end of each sprint. Cards in Scrum are often organized in columns with corresponding statuses.

Some organizations use Kanban or Scrum for their Agile projects. If an organization uses Kanban, it may be due to factors such as a lack of staff, management experience, or a desire to save money. Micromanagement may also be a factor, especially if senior management is involved. These factors are more likely if the organization does not clearly express Agile methods or have a transparent Agile culture.

Kanban is best used for its intended purpose, which is to organize work and help teams develop high Agile culture, discipline, self-organization, and competence. It is a workflow without sprints, but rather a continuous flow of work.

Kanban and BVOP can exhaust teams due to the lack of periodicity and cycles, which can lead to a feeling of endless and unfinished work, reducing energy and motivation. Scrum offers sprints, which provide equal intervals of time and a sense of accomplishment and completion. BVOP suggests testing both methods and periodically reviewing team member opinions to determine if a switch is necessary.

Comments on “What Is Kanban? An Introduction to Kanban Methodology”

  1. John Carry
    I recently did my research and wanted to find out more about Scrumban, which is a combination of Scrum and Kanban. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of useful information about specific practices and recommendations on the Internet. I was only able to come up with the idea of mixing Scrum roles together with the elimination of sprints as practiced in Kanban methodology. Can you share any details and recommendations about Scrumban? Thanks
  2. Frank Walker
    It is normal for you not to find specific details on the Internet for Scrumban since this system is not official and has no rules but is simply informal terminology. The idea is quite simple. You practice the typical Kanban approach exactly as described above only that you have sprints and all Scrum roles and artifacts. It is claimed that this approach applies mainly to Maintenance projects. My recommendation is not to pay as much attention to these concepts as even in the real world, there is very often no logic or order.
  3. Will Mattingley
    Kanban is a system that allows tasks in a project to be performed in parallel. This monitors the workload of team members. The number of tasks in progress is limited to increase the focus of the team. Therefore, this is how we reduce errors. Again, the team decides how to organize its work and how to deal with the challenges, but there are no specific roles. The work continues until the given product with the desired characteristics is created. There is no such thing as Scrumban and other hybrid theories that have no practical value.
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