Managing Enterprise Agility Workflow with Kanban

By Doug Rose

Kanban is an enterprise agility method for continually delivering products without overburdening the development team. Team members use a “Kanban board” and cards to track and manage workflow. A very basic Kanban board may have three columns labeled “To Do,” Work In Progress,” and “Done.” Each Kanban card contains a description of a work item. As work is done, team members move the Kanban card for the work item to the column that represents its flow state in the process.

The Kanban method enables team members to pull work through the process as their capacity to complete the work allows instead of having work pushed into the process — an approach that often leads to bottlenecks and increases stress among team members.

The Kanban board increases visibility, making it easier for everyone to see the status of work items and to identify backups and delays. Kanban enables teams to break down jobs into smaller work items and smaller batches of items to keep work items moving through the system, rather than trying to tackle big jobs, which often leads to delays.

At the team level, Kanban is an effective way to increase transparency and improve processes. It doesn’t require explicit practices, such as iterations, TDD, or user stories. It also doesn’t require the creation of additional roles, such as a product owner or Scrum Master. You can use Kanban in any situation in which you need to track work items or tasks, whether you’re developing products, managing a help desk, maintaining an editorial schedule, or streamlining hiring practices. Many of the top enterprise agile frameworks covered in Part 2 include a Kanban component for tracking and managing workflow.

Think of Kanban less as an agile framework and more as a tool that’s used within various agile and enterprise agile frameworks to facilitate workflow management and to help coordinate everyone’s efforts.