Core Practices and Principles of Kanban

Every Kanban project should follow these core principles:

  • Visualize the workflow: A visual representation of your work allows you to understand the big picture and see how the flow of work progresses. By making all the work visible, including blockers and queues, you can identify issues early on and improve collaboration.
  • Limit work in progress (WIP): Work in progress limits (WIP limits) determine the minimum and maximum amount of work for each column on the board or for each workflow. By putting a limit on WIP, you can increase speed and flexibility, and reduce the need for prioritizing tasks.
  • Manage and enhance the flow: The flow of work (the movement of work) throughout the Kanban board should be monitored and improved upon. Ideally, you want a fast, smooth flow, which shows that the team is creating value quickly. The team should analyze problems in the flow then implement changes.
  • Make process policies explicit: In order for collaborative change to occur in the Kanban system, the processes need to be explicit. Everyone needs to understand how things work or what “done” really means. You can modify the board to make these processes more clear; for example, you could redesign it to specify how the work should flow.
  • Continuously improve: The Kanban method encourages small, continuous changes that stick. Once the Kanban system is in place, the team will be able to identify and understand issues and suggest improvements. Teams measure their effectiveness by tracking flow, measuring cycle time, and increasing quality of work.