Kanban Workflow: Implementation, Optimization and Advantages

StarAgilecalenderLast updated on January 12, 2024book15 minseyes2257

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The Japanese car industry is where the Kanban workflow got its start, but it has since become an important method in modern project management Lifecycle. Kanban was first created to help with managing inventory and supply lines. It has since been used successfully in agile project management, where it provides a flexible and effective way to oversee tasks and workflows. This article goes into great detail about Kanban, breaking down its main ideas and the different steps that make up its structure. This article walks you through the steps you need to take to set up and manage a Kanban workflow, from using Kanban boards to see your work and putting limits on your work-in-progress (WIP). This article is helpful whether you're new to Kanban or just want to make your current process better. It shows how Kanban methodology can improve productivity, streamline project routines, and encourage a culture of always getting better. It goes into great detail about a method that is both easy to understand and has big effects on operations. This makes it a popular choice for teams that want to improve their project management.

Overview of the Kanban Workflow 

Let's Dive into Overview of the Kanban Workflow

1. Kanban in Agile Project Management

At its core, the Kanban workflow operates on the principles of just-in-time resource allocation, ensuring that tasks are executed efficiently when needed. Initially designed for inventory management, Kanban has seamlessly integrated into agile methodologies, offering a visual and streamlined approach to project management.

2. Kanban Process and Team Collaboration

A Kanban process establishes clear regulations and guidelines that the team adheres to, showcasing the work in progress at various stages of development and delivery. Unlike other methodologies, Kanban doesn't enforce a predefined workflow, emphasizing collaboration between delivery teams and adjacent work centers. Regular communication between teams and stakeholders is vital for aligning with business objectives.

3. Kanban Board and Cards

The cornerstone of the Kanban approach is the Kanban board, whether physical or virtual, which visually represents tasks at different stages. Kanban cards, often as simple as sticky notes, track progress and move through columns that represent distinct phases of the workflow. This visual representation ensures transparency, making it easy to identify bottlenecks and allocate resources efficiently.

Steps to Create Kanban Workflow

To start creating kanban workflow need a collaborative workflow is essential for kanban

1. Select Continuous Flows for Organized Cooperation

A collaborative workflow is essential for Kanban. It is most effective when tasks involve multiple individuals or teams and demand constant communication. Tasks that require quick decisions based on rapidly changing situations might not be suitable for a Kanban workflow.

2. Clearly Outline Each Procedure Phase

Before establishing task lists, a thorough understanding of each process is crucial. Process mapping helps define when a card transitions from one list to another, ensuring a clear delineation of responsibilities and handovers between team members.

3. Think About Potential Bottlenecks

Identify process steps with a high likelihood of delays or resource shortages. Being aware of potential bottlenecks at the planning stage allows for proactive solutions and prevents workflow interruptions.

4. Lists Should be Made for the Activities

Start building lists for the Kanban process, beginning with a "To Do" list and a "Done" list. Customize these lists based on your specific activities and workflows, ensuring they are easily understandable and user-friendly.

5. Check Your "Blocked" or "Stuck" List

Create a "blocked" list to address unforeseen circumstances that may cause delays. When a task is stalled, it is moved to this list, along with the reason for the delay. This ensures transparency and enables the team to proactively manage obstacles.

6. The Cards Should have Certain Colors to Help with Control

Implementing visual controls is crucial for effective Kanban workflow management. Assign specific colors to cards to denote urgency, normalcy, or when a task is stuck. This visual representation enhances process management and decision-making.

7. Establish Clear Regulations for Kanban Team

A successful Kanban workflow relies on the establishment of clear regulations that the team adheres to. These regulations should outline how work is done at various stages of development and delivery, fostering transparency and accountability.

8. Set Work in Progress (WIP) Limits

To avoid overwhelming the team, set WIP limits for each stage of the workflow. This ensures a balanced workload and prevents bottlenecks caused by an excessive number of tasks in progress.

9. Foster Regular Cooperation Between Teams

Regular cooperation between Kanban delivery teams and their counterparts at neighboring work centers is essential. This collaboration helps align the Kanban workflow with the demands placed by business units, contributing to the organization's bottom line.

Advantages of Using Kanban

 Kanban offers a myriad of advantages that significantly contribute to efficient project management:

  • Optimizes production lead times and storage costs.
  • Simple to use and understand, with low setup and running costs.
  • Provides a systematic approach with procedure transparency.
  • Anticipates and addresses potential obstructions.
  • Applicable to various team organizations and scenarios.
  • Encourages a continuous improvement process.
  • Limits multitasking, ensuring focused and efficient work.
  • Facilitates ongoing progress through visual management.
  • Optimize Production Lead Times and Storage Costs
  • Simple and Cost-Effective Implementation
  • Systematic Approach to Project Management
  • Procedure Transparency for Better Decision-Making
  • Foreseeing and Addressing Potential Obstructions
  • Applicable to Various Team Organizations and Scenarios
  • Encourages a Continuous Improvement Process
  • Limits Multitasking for Focused and Efficient Work
  • Facilitates Ongoing Progress Through Visual Management

Kanban Principles & Stages

Now Explore Kanban Principles & Stages

Kanban Principles

  • Visualize: Utilize Kanban boards to monitor work progress and task allocation.
  • Limit Working Projects (WIP): Set limits on the number of tasks in each column for a balanced workload.
  • Manage Workflow: Anticipate client demands and identify any hiccups in the work process to ensure timely delivery.
  • Clarify Your Policies: Clearly define and communicate policies to enhance accuracy and process improvement.
  • Provide Opportunities for Feedback: Regular team meetings are essential for identifying issues and determining solutions.
  • Continuous Improvement: Codify effective processes to maintain stability and predictability while continuously seeking optimization.

Kanban Stages

Tasks in a Kanban workflow are represented on boards through colored labels or cards, typically post-it notes. These tasks are classified and placed in columns corresponding to their status, such as Stories, To Do/Complete, In Progress, Testing, and Done. The number of columns on a Kanban board depends on the specific needs of the organization.

1. Stories

  • The initial stage in a Kanban workflow is often labeled as "Stories." In this phase, tasks are conceptualized, and ideas are generated. Whether it's a new feature, a product enhancement, or a bug fix, this column serves as the inception point for tasks to be considered and developed.
  • In the Stories stage, the focus is on brainstorming and outlining the requirements of each task. This is where the team collaboratively defines what needs to be done, laying the foundation for a structured and well-informed workflow.

2. To Do/Complete

  • The "To Do/Complete" column is where the defined tasks move for action. At this stage, each task is broken down into actionable items, creating a clear roadmap for execution. This is where the team decides what tasks to prioritize and allocate resources accordingly.
  • Tasks in the To Do/Complete column are ready to be picked up by team members for execution. Whether it's coding, designing, or any other activity, this stage sets the stage for the actual work to commence. It's the bridge between planning and execution, ensuring that tasks are well-defined before moving forward.

3. In Progress

  • The In Progress column signifies that the team is actively working on the tasks. This is where the tangible progress is made, and each task moves through the stages of development. Team members collaborate, share updates, and contribute to the overall advancement of the project.
  • Visibility in the In Progress column is crucial. It allows team members to understand who is working on what, fostering a collaborative environment. This stage emphasizes real-time communication, ensuring that any impediments or challenges are addressed promptly to maintain the flow of work.

4. Testing

  • As tasks move through the development phase, the next logical step is testing. The Testing column is where completed tasks are subjected to through testing processes to ensure quality and reliability. This stage is crucial for identifying and rectifying any issues before the task proceeds to the final stage.
  • In the Testing stage, dedicated team members or quality assurance professionals assess the functionality, performance, and compatibility of the task. Defects or bugs discovered during testing are documented and sent back to the In Progress or To Do/Complete column for resolution.

5. Done

  • The ultimate destination for tasks that have successfully navigated through the workflow is the "Done" column. This is the celebratory stage where completed tasks are acknowledged, and the team can take pride in their accomplishments. Tasks in the Done column are considered ready for delivery or deployment.
  • Achieving the Done status doesn't just signify task completion but also adherence to quality standards and client requirements. It's a pivotal stage for retrospective analysis, where teams can evaluate the efficiency of their workflow, identify areas for improvement, and celebrate successful collaboration.

Best practices to have an amazing Kanban Workflow

Let's Now look into best practices to have an better kanban workflow

Effectively Manage Workflow

Effective workflow management involves anticipating client demands and identifying potential hiccups in the process. By actively managing the workflow, teams can ensure timely delivery and maintain consistency in the project execution.

Clarify Your Policies

Clear communication is essential for successful Kanban implementation. Policies, often represented as succinct words above Kanban columns, help enhance accuracy and improve processes. These policies provide guidelines for how tasks should move through the workflow.

Provide Opportunities for Feedback

Regular team meetings provide opportunities for feedback and collaboration. Identifying issues and determining solutions during these meetings contributes to continuous improvement. Feedback loops are integral to refining processes and adapting to changing circumstances.

Continuous Improvement

The commitment to continuous improvement is a foundational principle of Kanban. Once effective processes are established, codifying them ensures stability and predictability. However, the journey doesn't end there teams should continuously seek optimization and enhancements to remain efficient.

Scrum vs Kanban

While both Scrum vs Kanban promote teamwork and agile methodologies, they differ in their frameworks and approaches:

Role Allocation: Scrum has specific role allocations (Product Owner, Scrum Master, development team), while Kanban is more flexible and adapts based on business demands.

Flexibility: Kanban allows for immediate adjustments to meet new requirements, while Scrum only allows changes between sprints.

Delivery Methods: Kanban follows a continuous delivery model, delivering items in a pull flow, while Scrum utilizes time-limited sprints.5

Combining Scrum and Kanban for Increased Flexibility

Some teams opt to combine the philosophies of Scrum and Kanban to create a hybrid approach known as "Scrumban." This approach incorporates fixed-length sprints and roles from Scrum, emphasizing cycle time and work-in-progress restrictions from Kanban.

Prioritizing Tasks Over Sprints

In Scrumban, prioritized tasks are utilized instead of sprints. This approach offers increased flexibility, allowing teams to adapt to changing priorities and requirements. Scrumban is suitable for numerous teams and mixed project portfolios, emphasizing adaptability and flexibility.

Adaptive and Flexible Project Management

The organizational structure and culture of the team ultimately influence the choice between Scrum, Kanban, or Scrumban. While Scrum provides more order and structure, Kanban and Scrumban are better suited for workplaces with frequently changing priorities. Being adaptive and flexible is crucial in selecting the methodology that aligns with the team's objectives.


In conclusion, the Kanban workflow is a versatile and powerful method for project management, providing transparency, efficiency, and continuous improvement. Its flexibility makes it suitable for various team organizations and scenarios. Combining the philosophies of Kanban and Scrum into "Scrumban" offers even greater adaptability. As you start implementing Kanban, remember to stay true to its principles, continuously visualize your workflow, and adapt to feedback for ongoing improvement. Whether you are new to agile methodologies or seeking to enhance your existing workflows, Kanban is a valuable tool that can transform how your team collaborates and delivers projects. The key to success lies not just in adopting a methodology but in consistently refining and adapting it to meet your projects' unique needs and challenges. Join to learn all about Kanban certification training. Get hands-on training in a collaborative environment and turn yourself into a Kanban expert.


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