6 Core Kanban Principles

November 2, 2022
2 minute read

To successfully utilize the Kanban method there are 6 core principles or practices that need to be implemented.

 6 Core Kanban Principles


1. Visualize Workflow

Your workflow is the process sequence of how your team accomplishes tasks. When you use the kanban methodology in project management, the first step would be to visualize it so you can decide what the columns of your kanban board will be.

For example, when you work with a content creation team, you can standardize the checkpoints of your writing process and use them as columns.

This way, you can ensure that all your writers follow the same flow. It'll also make it easier for you to check in on their progress and provide guidance if they need any.


2. Limit Works In Progress

One of the big temptations we encounter when faced with a bunch of tasks that need to be done is the temptation to multitask. And yet, studies have proven that multitasking decreases individual performance. It also forces people to context switch –alternate unrelated tasks in an attempt to progress on all of them.

Context switching may make you feel productive, but it negatively affects your focus and task quality because of attention residue

For example, imagine you're writing an article, and you suddenly feel the desire to look at your email. Giving into that temptation, you might feel like you managed to stay on top of your inbox without compromising your writing. However, studies show that with attention residue, part of your attention will remain in your inbox even after you've switched to writing. This can affect the quality of your work.

Using the Kanban methodology, you can monitor all the tasks your team members are working on. Limiting the number of tasks under this column can discourage them from context-switching and multitasking. This small change can help them maximize their productivity and optimize work quality.

3. Managing Flow

Flow is the movement of your tasks across your work process. As the project manager, it's your job to ensure that your team is progressing in your kanban projects. With a kanban board, overseeing this becomes so much easier.

You'll most likely see your cards move along your workflow every day. Suppose some tasks seem to stay on specific columns longer than expected. In that case, you'd immediately know to check in with the person responsible for the task to see what impediments are hindering its progress. Are there pieces of information they need to move forward? Are they having equipment issues? Spotting blockers before they cause massive project delays will help you ensure that your team won't miss deliverable deadlines.


4. Make Policies Explicit

Standardizing your workflow with a kanban board aligns your whole kanban team on how you expect them to do their tasks. This helps avoid cutting corners. Moreover, it allows for easier onboarding. New hires can easily integrate into the standard workflow once they use the same kanban board that the whole team uses.

By making your policies explicit, you cease to become the only person who can answer questions about workflow. This can encourage your team members to work with less supervision and collaborate more efficiently.


5. Implement Feedback Loops

Feedback allows project teams to monitor productivity and spot opportunities to improve. The sessions at which feedback is solicited are called a kanban cadence.


There are seven key recommended meetings for the kanban framework:

  • Daily meetings: Daily stand-up
  • Weekly meeting: Replenishment meeting
  • Bi-weekly: Service delivery review
  • Monthly: Risk review, operations review 
  • Occasionally: Delivery planning
  • Quarterly: Strategy review

When you consistently facilitate these meetings, you can constantly evaluate if your strategies and processes are still effectively supporting your team's productivity. Bottlenecks and sources of friction can be detected and addressed as soon as possible.


6. Improve Collaboratively, Improve Experimentally

Standardizing your workflow, aligning your team on your policies, keeping tasks and progress visible, and getting feedback will ensure that you and your team are always on the same page. When improvements are introduced, the friction caused by process adjustments will be minimal, especially if the new solutions are ones that the team comes up with collaboratively.

Experimenting and staying open to new ways of working can help kanban teams stay on top of their game. While it can be scary to change things up, embracing agility can benefit your team's productivity.



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