Kanban is an agile way of working based on the principles of ‘pull’ and ‘flow’. It is often used by teams that have to tackle a continuous flow of work. Literally translated from Japanese kanban means signboard. It is an empirical way of working: you take the current way of working and continuously incrementally improve the workflow based your real world experiences. Kanban employs visual management techniques, this helps you to have a constant overview of the work in progress and what still needs to be picked up. Kanban teams are agile because they focus on short cycle times and can constantly re-prioritize their work. This ensures continuous delivery. Unlike Scrum, kanban does not use sprints but is based on a constant flow.


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Kanban principles

Five Kanban principles ensure an optimal cooperation and process. They are:

  1. Visualize your work: make all the work transparent. This way you get a shared overview and insight into your workload
  2. Limit ‘work in progress’: focus and prioritize. Stop starting, start finishing
  3. Focus on flow: ensure work flows across the board as quickly and resolve impediments
  4. Make agreements explicit: literally add your agreements to your board so the team has shared ownership and definitions of what defines  ‘done’ in each process step
  5. Improve collectively: as a team regularly reflect on your process and improve continuously

Why use Kanban?

  • To gain an overview of ongoing affairs and work in progress
  • To have fewer spikes of work and better division of the workload across the team
  • To focus your team on getting work to ‘done’
  • To gain insight into bottlenecks and how to tackle these
  • To ensure work is more easily transferred between colleagues

Who should use Kanban?

Kanban is primarily suited to teams of professionals who work with a continuous workflow or repeating work. These teams use kanban to gain an insight into their joint workload, prioritize and improve together. Examples of types of work that are well suited to Kanban are: licensing, recruitment, operations and systems management.