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Wrong and Right Reasons to Apply Kanban

by Vikas Hazrati

What is Kanban and what does it stand for? When should you apply it? These questions are answered in this excellent article by Vikas Hazrati. Kanban is an innovative approach to project management, allowing the teams become more effective and making their process more streamlined. The word Kanban (Kan ban) comes from Japanese: Kan which means "visual" and Ban - which stands for "card". As more teams are getting started with Kanban, it makes sense to establish what are the right and wrong reasons to do so.

Some of the common wrong reasons are:

  • Varied story sizes - Kanban isn't the answer, the solution is teaching the team to split stories better into small tasks
  • Inability to finish a story within one iteration - doing Kanban will not impact the speed with which you work in general
  • Unwillingness to do Scrum-like retrospectives - they are always beneficial, whichever management method you've applied, Kanban has its ways of looking back to analyze too
  • Not being ready to form stable teams, as the team members need to work on different projects with time - a solution easier than Kanban is forming cross-functional teams and putting an end to any multi-tasking
  • Faith in Kanban's simplicity as an answer to any management issues - whatever you do, you will need to work hard and there will always be problems, don't let anyone full you

As to the right reasons for doing Kanban, we may list the following:

  • Being able to release items at any time - which isn't possible with other, iterative methods
  • Having the option to change priorities when necessary - not really doable in Scrum
  • Redundancy of iterations - as they bring no value to Kanban-based work
  • Lack of need to make estimations (goes with lack of iterations), all that the order of work is based on are priorities
  • Ideal and helpful workflow visualization - bringing insight into what the team is doing and what stage of the process has the work reached

On top of these, there are the reasons characteristic for Kanban, as mentioned by Karl Scotland - modeling the whole value stream, limiting work in progress, establishing a cadence and facilitating continuous improvement.

The true key to finding the method right for your team and process is looking into what you're currently doing. Can this be improved? Are you making any obvious mistakes? This kind of approach will provide a lot more value than just dumping whatever you're doing for something else and hoping this will solve all the problems.


Read our article on the reasons for doing Kanban »
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