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Walkthrough of the Official Guide to the Kanban Method in 6 Minutes

Kanban University just released the official guide to the kanban method. We are very excited about this launch. We made a video walking you through the guide in 6 minutes.

You can download the guide from Kanban University.

The guide has 4 major sections.

  • Section 1 - Some background about the Kanban Method

  • Section 2 - A look at Principles and Practices of the Kanban Method

  • Section 3 - A way of explaining Kanban using a highway metaphor dubbed “Kan-Bahn”

  • Section 4 – An overview of a few Specific Kanban Practices

Section One - Kanban Background

Section one starts by explaining that the Kanban Method is intended for professional services or “knowledge work”. It’s about Improving things with your customers in mind.

It includes a poster highlighting the major parts of the Kanban method – these are explained in more detail later in the guide.

Page 4 starts by explaining that Kanban is not a framework or process. Rather a method to improve your existing processes. Kanban’s origin’s in Lean

Manufacturing is also mentioned and while it shares things like Pull Systems and WIP limits with Lean – Kanban is less focused on the costly waste of tangible inventories but on the flow of getting to value. Areas of application of Kanban are identified outside of just IT and technology.

Section Two - General Principles & Practices

There are principles and practices in Kanban. And you can practice them at different scales: teams, departments, or the whole organization. I like how they said there is no right and wrong Kanban – definitely agree.

The Change Principles are covered on Page 5 of the guide. Where it details out how to use insights to trigger acts of leadership to allow for continuous improvements. Kanban tries to avoid big-bang changes.

The section on Service Delivery Principles guides you to seeing what you do now as a service. And realize that your organization is organized across a network of these services that depend on each other.

Page 6 and 7 cover the 6 Kanban General Practices.

They are:

  1. Visualize – Ways to see hidden work.

  2. Limit WIP – Understand how Work In Process impacts the flow of work

  3. Manage Flow – Ways to see and ensure work is flowing. In particular in conjunction with metrics.

  4. Make Policies Explicit – Not instructions, but more working agreements that allow us to perform consistently.

  5. Feedback Loops – Some types are meant for coordinating the work and other types are for improving your capability

  6. Improve Collaboratively – A collaborative approach to continuous improvement.

Section 3 - Highway Metaphor "Kan-Bahn"

We move on to part 3, which is the Highway Metaphor to explain Kanban.

Most people know the famous German Auto-Bahn – so Kanb-Bahn is a funny play on words here. I’ve used a highway model to help a lot of our clients get Kanban concepts, so I really like it’s use in the guide.

Some key messages from the metaphor include:

  • Utilization vs Throughput – Suggesting we may be less interested in keeping our highways full vs keeping our traffic moving.

  • Types of Work – On highways, we have all types of vehicles: cars, trucks, motorcycles for all sorts of different purposes.

  • Class of Service – Not everyone gets to use the highway the same way. There are ambulances, fire trucks and carpools.

  • Manage Flow – On highways - entrances are opened and closed periodically, we may restrict vehicles of certain types at certain hours.

  • Visualize – A traffic control centre may have a live model of all the streets.

  • Limit Parallel Work – Traffic lights and other rules allow us to prevent overuse of parts of our highways to avoid congestion.

  • The concept of Pull is explained by signals on the highway. Is there space in front of you with no other cars? It’s a signal that you can proceed forward.

  • Flow of Work – we may collect traffic data to improve our highways.

  • Blockers – Accidents cause slowdowns on the highway

  • Explicit Policies – We have signs on the road and rules that need to be known before we get our drivers license.

  • Feedback Loops – LED signs on the road

  • Improve the System – Highways regularly improve, new signs, new rules and sometimes even new lanes. Your process at work needs to regularly improve too.

  • Commitment Point – Once you decided to get on the highway, you need to see the journey through at least to the next exit. It’s challenging and costly to change your mind later.

Section 4 - Kanban Specific Practices

Earlier the guide outlined Kanban General Practices – Part 4 of the guide, the last section, covers Kanban Specific Practices

On page 11 STATIK, spelled with a K, is explained. STATIK is used to either kickoff or refresh a Kanban implementation. It helps you understand how you are currently working so that your Kanban system can be designed to be effective in your context. There are 6 steps detailed.

Following STATIK the guide details a few more specific practices:

  • Kanban Boards – a common way of visualizing your work using columns and cards.

  • WIP Limits – They govern how many cards are allowed in a specific area of your board.

The guide also discusses the most common metrics used on page 13

There is focus on metrics such as Lead Time, Throughput and WIP visualization.

The last page of the guide covers Cadences.

This is the Kanban’s specific practice for feedback loops. The cadences you end up with is dependent on the type of Kanban being practiced. 3 team-based examples of cadences are listed in the guide.

And there you have it, we’ve just walked through the new kanban guide. Don’t forget to visit the kanban university website to download your free copy of the guide.

If you are ready to bring the guide to life check reach us at for training and coaching services that are all about making your adoption successful.

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