Boost Your Workflow with Kanban (and Its Application in Agile Environments)

Boost Your Workflow with Kanban (and Its Application in Agile Environments)
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by Georgelin María Fernández, Senior Agile Facilitator at Growth Acceleration Partners.

Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed, stressed and frustrated — with work that’s “almost done,” being unable to meet deadlines, or delivering urgent things that do not meet your client’s expectations? If you’re experiencing these challenges, it may be time to consider using Kanban as a tool.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a method to organize work, define and visualize systems that deliver services in a stream of value to customers. Yes, I know it may sound familiar, but that’s because Kanban incorporates ideas from various sources, such as Toyota’s Just-In-Time, Agile, Lean Software Development and other references, and it embraces concepts like pull systems, queue theory and flow.

In a Kanban system, work items or tasks are pulled into the workflow based on actual demand. New work is initiated only when there is available capacity to handle it and when it aligns with the business priorities. This promotes a customer-centric mindset and ensures work is meaningful and valuable. It is different from push systems that rely on predetermined schedules and plans, which may not always align with current needs.

Start with what you do now

One of the fundamental principles of Kanban is to start with your existing workflow. This includes discovering the rules by which the work is done; how much it can be handled at a given time; and how efficiently and frequently value is delivered to both internal and external consumers.

This approach is not limited to software development frameworks or project management methods, as most people think. It could be used to manage personal tasks, improve systems or drive transformation processes within teams and organizations.

How can Kanban help?

Whether you’re an individual striving for personal greatness or an organization aiming for full-stack agility, Kanban offers a practical and flexible approach:

  • Defining explicit policies and including team agreements that shape how the services are delivered and things that should be done before the work can be “Done”
  • Increasing visibility of dependencies, blockers and bottlenecks, and what the team needs to be able to work efficiently and effectively
  • Achieving a better sense of delivery risk so you can make promises that you can keep (SLAs, OLAs)
  • Limiting work in progress to change a push system into a pull system, bringing the importance of categorization and prioritization techniques to the table
  • Improving feedback in all areas of the process, fostering collaboration, and encouraging acts of leadership at every level
  • Allowing the team to focus and align around a common goal
  • Embracing continuous improvement and evolutionary change

Visualization boards, which are key components of the Kanban system, provide clear visibility and everyone can see what’s in progress, what’s completed, and what impediments or challenges exist. With these boards, you can collaborate to resolve, reprioritize or pull in different work items. Also, you can analyze your board to identify opportunities for optimization, such as managing overdemand, late feedback or approvals preventing you from delivering value.

Some of these issues — such as the lack of availability of team members — will not be resolved only with a Kanban implementation. But this method can lead to taking action, or at least starting a difficult conversation:

  • What is our team priority?
  • Do we have everyone and everything we need to start working on that
  • What can we do to move forward with the work in progress?

On the other hand, if your work environment is extremely complex and unpredictable, Kanban by itself may not provide enough structure to handle rapid changes. In such cases, you may want to combine Kanban with other practices or methods such as Scrum, XP or Lean.

If you are still curious about it, in the next articles of this series we are going to address how to successfully kick-start Kanban in a team.

Stay tuned!


Essential Kanban Condensed, David J. Anderson and Andy Carmichael.
Kanban Guide, Daniel Vacanti and John Coleman.
Explore the benefits of Kanban, David J. Anderson School of Management.
Rethinking Agile, Klaus Leopold.
SAFe Team Kanban