The basics about Kanban you need to know

So far in this blog, David Kiger has defined the concepts of Kaizen and Just in Time (JIT). In this sense, Kaizen is the philosophy of continuous improvement, while JIT cares about having what is needed at the exact moment when it is needed along the supply chain.

However, there is one concept that hasn’t been analyzed yet. It is the Kanban methodology, which has many things to do with both Kaizen and JIT since it is considered to be a subdivision of the JIT systems that aims to incrementally change the way systems operate within any given organization.

Kanban is deeply focused in the workflow, as it also cares about leadership, doing what is supposed to be done and finishing all those tasks that individuals started in first place.

What is Kanban?

In short, Kanban is a methodology that helps organizations solve all their internal and external issues by prioritizing needs and keeping a clear focus. It aims to cover any problem that may pop-up along the working flow in order to optimize it and deliver more consistent results to the final client or market.

It is key to add value to products by optimizing the way they are produced and solving any potential issue along the workflow. In this sense, Kanban tries to accomplish three main goals:

1 – Finishing things: Some people may think that this a silly thing to focus on because it seems pretty logical that organizations need to focus on finish what they start. However, many times the source of incompetency in a company is the fact that individuals are more focused on starting what they have to do and little focused on what they need to finish.

Here, Kanban reminds you that, even when it is crucial to start things, finishing them is what will allow the company to move to the next step.

2 – What matters most is value: Kanban believes that companies should worry about the value of their products. Having a good working flow, that operates according to JIT principles will allow companies to add value to their products. Clients will be definitely satisfied if they get what they want at the moment they want it.

3 – Focus on the flow: Kanban believes that flow is a very important concept. In fact, one could say that flow is the king. This means that it is important to have consistent systems that allow companies to optimize their flow. Processes should never stop because of poor performance.

This third idea is one that includes the other two ideas above. By caring about the flow, you will be adding value to your products, and will also guarantee that things are finished.

Basic principles of Kanban

Kanban as a methodology can be summarized into the following four basic principles:

1 – Do not procrastinate

This means that you should start doing what you need to do right away. However, the Kanban methodology here doesn’t force a way for people to do things, as long as they are actually doing them. When you do the things that you need to do, you are immediately becoming part of the workflow. This way, when a problem pops-up you must be able to solve it right away.

2 – Chance is incremental

Kanban is designed to achieve incremental change. This is possible because improvement takes place along the workflow and resistance coming from external and internal factors is minimum. Evolution is then allowed to take place gradually and any possible issue is never a source of discomfort since it can be easily solved. Some people describe Kanban as taking “baby steps” towards greatness.

Flow Diagram_kanban_logistics_supply chain
Image courtesy of at

3 – Respect is the key

Individuals need to respect the way processes are done, the roles that every individual has inside and outside the organization, the responsibilities that each individual has, as well as its position inside the organization.

It is not about the way a single individual wants to do things, is a matter of being a piece of the whole puzzle. Every change should take place gradually, in a way that everyone agrees with it but no one can actually perceive it. In other words, the change should be incremental but should not go against others beliefs and styles.

4 – Leadership should be encouraged

Kanban encourages everyone within an organization to become a leader. Leaders come in many different shapes and have different styles, regardless their position inside the organization. This is possible because Kanban believes that leaders are not only the CEOs or owners of companies, they are also regular individuals taking care of important tasks in the workflow.

A leader is someone who has a great performance is able to do real work and takes care of any management level activity. This means that Kanban allows every individual within an organization to become a leader.

* Featured Image courtesy of Oliver Tacke at


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