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Kanban is a method for organizing workflows that originated in the automotive industry. By visualizing processes, creating transparency, and continuous improvement, Kanban helps to identify bottlenecks and make work processes more efficient. The implementation of Kanban often involves the use of physical or digital Kanban boards that represent individual tasks and their status. In this glossary entry, you will learn more about the basics and principles of Kanban, as well as its application in various areas.

Definition of Kanban

Kanban (Japanese: 看板) literally translates to "signboard" or "billboard." It is a method for controlling and optimizing work processes, particularly used in production and project management. Originally, Kanban was developed by the Japanese company Toyota in the 1940s to better control manufacturing processes and enable Just-in-Time production.

The goal of Kanban is to make workflows visible, identify bottlenecks, and continuously improve them. Flexibility and adaptability to changing conditions are at the forefront of this method.

Basic Principles of Kanban

The implementation of Kanban is based on four basic principles:

  1. Visualization: Representing work processes and their status allows for quick recognition of progress and potential problems.
  2. Limiting Work in Progress (WIP): By limiting the number of tasks being worked on at the same time, focus on individual activities is promoted, and efficiency is increased.
  3. Managing the workflow: Continuous observation and analysis of the workflow can identify and eliminate bottlenecks.
  4. Continuous Improvement: Kanban focuses on constant improvement and optimization of work processes to increase efficiency and allow adjustments to be made to changing conditions.

Kanban Board

A central component of Kanban is the so-called Kanban board. This can be implemented either physically, for example with a board and sticky notes, or digitally with the help of specialized software solutions. The Kanban board displays individual tasks and their status. Typically, tasks are arranged in different columns corresponding to the various stages of the work process, e.g., "To Do," "In Progress," and "Done."

Employees can thus grasp the current status of their tasks and the overall situation of the project at a glance. Visualization also promotes communication and collaboration within the team.

Application of Kanban in Various Areas

Although Kanban was originally developed for production, it has now become established in many other areas. It is particularly widespread in software development and IT project management. But it can also be successfully applied in other industries, such as marketing, sales, or personal organization.

The adaptability of Kanban allows the method to be tailored to different work processes and requirements. Elements from other agile methods, such as Scrum, can also be combined with Kanban to find an optimal project management approach.

Advantages of Kanban

The application of Kanban offers numerous advantages:

  • Transparency: Visualization allows for quick recognition of work progress and potential problems.
  • Efficiency Increase: By limiting the number of tasks in progress at the same time, efficiency can be increased.
  • Flexibility: Kanban enables quick responses to changed conditions and the making of adjustments.
  • Reduction of Waste: Continuous improvement of work processes helps to minimize waste and unnecessary activities.

Disadvantages of Kanban

Despite the many advantages, there are also some disadvantages to the application of Kanban:

  • Limited Predictability: The flexible approach can make long-term planning more difficult than with other project management methods.
  • Dependence on the Team's Discipline: Kanban requires a high degree of self-responsibility and discipline from team members to function effectively.

Overall, Kanban is a versatile and flexible method for organizing and improving workflows. The adaptability of the method allows it to be successfully implemented in various areas and under different conditions.