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The Kanban Lens

by David Anderson

With Kanban being as developed as it is now, and as strongly associated with flow as it is, it was with a renewed interest that we observed David Anderson mentioning the Kanban core enabling concept (nicknamed the Kanban Lens). This is a simple way of making core Kanban-like changes to an organization without actually breaking the current process. What characterizes Kanban as an approach is: service orientation, a clear workflow associated with the service delivery and a set of knowledge discovery activities, which make up the workflow.

kanban results

Service orientation

This way of seeing the organization allows to distinguish services in place of functions, henceforth pointing to the existence of service customers. Taking this approach facilitates an outside-in thinking about the system, giving the process owner a better understanding of what is being done with regards to value, not action.

A set of knowledge discovery activities

This concept has been taken from Lean Product Development, in which producing reusable knowledge is a key factor to establishing a well working system, based on circulation of usable information. It's suggested that this is achieved by facilitation of a system, that builds upon itself with actions of appropriately behaving users.

While trying to establish a proper workflow, the Lean community advises on making it follow the work. This is not entirely correct from Kanban's point of view. Following work gives information on who had already taken part in the process and who hasn't started it yet. What Kanban asks for you to find out is the value created at each step of the way. This is a very big difference.

Visualizing the process in this way makes for a much simpler workflow design, than trying to pin point each and every step of the process, with the person responsible for it included.

The benefit of looking at a system through a Kanban Lens

Looking at an organization's process via a Kanban Lens allows to build a series of Kanban systems, interconnected and dependable on each other, possible to analyze as separate or as a whole (Anderson refers to this as Operations Review). Although this is not a new concept, David believes that bringing it to the surface will allow more people to understand Kanban better and therefore improve their processes much more effectively.


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