Common Ground with Kanban

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Let’s start with a brief history lesson. Kanban is a technique that came out of “The Toyota Way” — a series of techniques implemented by Toyota to optimize its production process. It’s been around since at least 1953 so it’s hardly new, but it is now widely associated with software development as part of the growth of Agile in recent years, and it has become much more popular as a result.

I want to look at how Kanban concepts can be applied beyond Agile, and in particular whether organizations can use the approach to help educate on Agile and perhaps even help some of the “small a” agile concepts make it into traditional project management.

I don’t want to spend too much time explaining what Kanban is — there are any number of resources —so for the purposes of this article let’s think of Kanban as a simple graphical way of showing the work of a project broken into different categories. I know that’s simplistic, but it’s a good enough starting point.

Kanban for communication

Perhaps the most obvious use case for expanding Kanban beyond Agile is as a tool for communicating to stakeholders. The simple structure of a few categories — not started, in progress, and complete, for example — combined with a box for each feature or work package placed in one of those categories …

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