When is it appropriate to choose the Kanban method?


The Kanban method continues to increase in popularity in agile organizations due to its cost-saving and evolutionary approach. Unlike other methods, there is no “right” way to do Kanban. A common saying goes “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. This saying resonated with Kanban leaders. They later adopted their own version of the saying to be, “There is no such thing as bad Kanban, only inappropriate practice adoption.” When looking for success with the Kanban method, it is important to ensure that the organization has the correct maturity level to handle certain practices. However, in some organizations implementing the Kanban method does not make sense due to the culture or leadership of the organization. So how do you know if Kanban is right for you? We outlined three situations in which Kanban might be just what you are looking for and one situation where Kanban might not be right for you.

3 Instances to Choose Kanban + 1 Where Kanban Is Not The Best Choice

1. Your process suffers from overburdening or variability in flow

If you are dealing with problems of overburdening or uneven, unpredictable flow, Kanban can be the solution you are looking for. By limiting the work in progress and bringing visibility to otherwise invisible work items, Kanban has been proven to eliminate overburdening of employees and create a steady flow of work. Uneven flow and long lead times due to overburdening can result in poor quality work and unacceptable service delivery. Put an end to it by implementing Kanban principles and practices.

2. Your process would benefit from deferred commitment

Is there uncertainty in your world? Do you lack the information to make a good decision? Or would you benefit from more time to make a better, more informed decision? If so, the Kanban method is right for you. Kanban allows for deferred commitment. This allows you to make better risk management decisions and to understand the cost of delay for work items. By delaying something until later, you can choose something else more important, more critical, or more urgent.

3. People in your organization are likely to resist change emotionally or reject forced changes to their identity

Evolutionary Change Model

Do you work in an organization that will resist structural social changes? By implementing change, are you affecting the identity of someone? Will changes made affect how they view their level of respect and dignity? If so, Kanban might be the right choice for you. Kanban coaches know how to deal with identity change. The Evolutionary Change Model allows organizations to allow improvement to happen by making changes as painless as possible for everyone. The Kanban Maturity Model helps organizations to introduce the appropriate practices and cultural changes along the way.

 4. Your boss is a revolutionary

Is your boss looking to kick ass and take names? Do they want a grand victory and to take all the credit? Revolutionary leaders choose to make dramatic social change. If your boss is a revolutionary, the Kanban method might not be for you. These types of leaders tend to not have the patience for evolutionary change. Kanban relies on an evolutionary, gradual process that will stick, not a quick shock to the system. Kanban does not value managerial heroics.  With Kanban, there is no re-organization, role changing, or dramatic change.

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