This way of working has evolved from the Toyota Production System (TPS). Like the Toyota Production System, Kanban is about increasing the quality of work, giving more responsibility and authority to the employees involved, and distributing work equally and fairly.

Kanban is about bringing work into the flow. In addition to the well-being of the employees and their protection from overload, it is above all about the satisfaction of the customer who, ideally, only needs to plan for short waiting times.


To get the work flowing, Kanban first visualises the existing work process either on a physical or electronic board similar to the Sprint Backlog Board in Scrum

The term 'Kanban' is Japanese and means signal card. Each work package is symbolised by a signal card that runs through the work process on the board for all participants to see. This way, the responsible team can see when too many work packages accumulate in one work step and a traffic jam occurs. A traffic jam in Kanban, just like in road traffic, means increased throughput times and thus longer waiting times for customers waiting for their ordered products or services.

Kanban solves the problem with Work in Progress Limits (WIPs). These indicate how many work packages may be in which work step at the same time. Therefore, less work is done at the same time by a sub-team or an individual. Multitasking is avoided and the processing time of a single work package is reduced. Thus, the waiting time of a single customer is also reduced.

However, this can mean that work packages have to wait longer before a team even takes them over into their work process. This is about transparency. For example, the customer can be informed that the process is currently busy and work on their order can only start at a later time. The customer can then decide for himself how he wants to deal with this. In any case, Kanban prevents work or orders from disappearing into a 'black box' and no one knows exactly when the work can be expected to be completed.

Kanban makes everyone involved responsible: the customers and all team members. As in Scrum, the team members only pull as many work packages into their work process as they think they can manage well, or at most as many as their 'work in progress' limit allows them. The 'pull principle' also applies here. Unlike Scrum, however, Kanban does not regulate who prioritises the work. The team may have to negotiate this with its manager or with a neighbouring team responsible for customer satisfaction, or even among themselves.

The introduction of Kanban means an incremental or evolutionary change for the respective team, as Kanban initially accepts all established roles. Only gradually should it become apparent that it is better for the team, the customers or the overall transparency, responsibilities and roles are adjusted.

Andrea SchmittInnovationstrainerinAm Mittelpfad 24aD 65520 Bad Camberg+49 64 34-905 997+49 175 5196446
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