Here are the terms that one comes across in Kanban. Understanding the concepts of these terms will help one in understanding Kanban.
Flow – Kanban is based on the theory of flow. Flow is of no use without value, in Kanban Flow is the movement of potential value through a system.
Kanban Practices – There are 3 practices in Kanban ( (1) Defining and visualizing a workflow (2) Actively managing items in a workflow (3) Improving a workflow
Kanban system – Kanban practices are collectively called a Kanban system
Kanban system members -Those who participate in the value delivery of a Kanban system are called Kanban system members.
Workflow – How work gets done + movement of potential value through a system.
Definition of Workflow (DoW) – This is the fundamental concept of Kanban. The explicit shared understanding of flow among Kanban system members within their context is called a Definition of Workflow (DoW).
Kanban Board – The visualization of the Definition of Workflow (DoW)is called a Kanban board.
Work Items – A definition of the individual units of value that are moving through the workflow.
Work in progress (WIP) – Any work items between a started point and a finished point are considered work in progress (WIP).
WIP limits – WIP stands for Work in Progress, part of actively managing items on a workflow practice. Controlling WIP helps in managing the workflow which means not adding new work items unless the in-progress work items are completed.
Service Level Expectation (SLE) – Forecast of how long it should take a work item to flow from start to finish. It serves 3 functions – right sizing, completion forecast, and how much age is too much age.
Throughput: The number of work items finished per unit of time. Note the measurement of throughput is the exact count of work items.
Work Item Age: The amount of elapsed time between when a work item started and the current time.
Cycle Time: The amount of elapsed time between when a work item started and when a work item finished.
Refer this page – Kanban on a page to know about Kanban in a nutshell.
Definition of Kanban
Kanban is a strategy for optimizing the flow of value through a process that uses a visual, pull-based system. Context is critical in Kanban and the primary step upon which the whole Kanban setup is built. If a team/organization is following the below 3 practices of Kanban, they are doing Kanban. There can be additional practices that teams can adopt along with Kanban practices based on their context however these 3 practices are a MUST.
3 Practices of Kanban
- Defining and visualizing a workflow
- Actively managing items in a workflow
- Improving a workflow
These Kanban practices are collectively called a Kanban system
Those who participate in the value delivery of a Kanban system are called Kanban system members.
Core Concept of Kanban
Flow theory is the foundation of Kanban. Flow is the movement of potential value through a system. The strategy of Kanban is to optimize value by optimizing flow. Optimization does not necessarily imply maximization. Rather, value optimization means striving to find the right balance of effectiveness, efficiency, and predictability in how work gets done.
3 aspects of value optimization – Effectiveness, Efficiency, Predictability
An effective workflow is one that delivers what customers want when they want it.
An efficient workflow allocates available economic resources as optimally as possible to deliver value.
A more predictable workflow means being able to accurately forecast value delivery within an acceptable degree of uncertainty.
Quote – If you can’t measure it, you cannot improve
There are 4 measures in Kaban
- WIP: The number of work items started but not finished.
- Throughput: The number of work items finished per unit of time. Note the measurement of throughput is the exact count of work items.
- Work Item Age: The amount of elapsed time between when a work item started and the current time.
- Cycle Time: The amount of elapsed time between when a work item started and when a work item finished.
If one has to summarize Kanban in one sentence that would be Kanban is about flow optimization which includes effectiveness, efficiency and predictability. No flow No Kanban.