Everyday Kanban

Discussing Management, Teams, Agile, Lean, Kanban & more

Is it or isn’t it a Kanban board?

I have found myself telling people recently that every board you see around workplaces that tracks work shouldn’t be called a kanban board. I even put it in my Kanban 101 prezi I’ve done at work recently to teach people about The Kanban Method and introduce the concept of flow-based work management.

My motivation to call this out stemmed from the misconception that if you’re tracking your work at all, you’re doing kanban. To me, the key element to kanban (regardless of a capital K or not) is that flow-based work management. I was concerned that people thought kanban was as simple as throwing up a board and you’re done. We’d have lots of teams walking around advertising “I’m doing kanban!” when they are really not. That concerned me because of the potential of the undervaluation of what a deep kanban implementation could really bring a company.

I even took this question to Twitter. There weren’t many responses but enough to make me think a little harder about this. Not necessarily about the original question, but more along the lines of “Does it really matter?” On one hand I think that terminology and correct definitions matter but on the other hand, I don’t want to fall into that trap of “You’re not doing it right!” that befalls so many teams at the hands of coaches of various sorts. The point isn’t the process, its the thing that the process is meant to help you achieve.

I’m not sure I’ll find a situation in which I think people shouldn’t use flow-based work management, but I think I’ll take this particular “Kanban Myth” out of my prezi. Visualizing your work is one of the practices of The Kanban Method.  Though I want people to go past mere visualization to realize better value, I want to stop telling people that their progress and terminology is wrong and focus on the next step of evolution for their teams. To quote Dave Snowden (at LKNA 14), I want to “meet them where they are.”

Comment with your thoughts. I’d love to continue this conversation with anyone who is interested.

2 Comments

  1. I happened to see a LinkedIn post entitled The “No Board” Kanban Challenge –> http://lnkd.in/b_P–ga
    which is timely and related.

  2. So true! I’ve been speaking with several colleagues about the same topic, often enough that I finally just put my thoughts down in a post. It’s great when you find someone who’s open to the idea of moving on from using their board for just task tracking, to using kanban to find where the problems in their work flow is. But most people aren’t that open to change. Which I find mystifying, since it’s usually not that long since they change their practices to include the board.

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