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12/100 - What is Kanban? All You Need to Know including Kanban Vs Scrum

What is Kanban? All You Need to Know including Kanban Vs Scrum
Source - Andy Carmichael, Wikimedia Commons.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a lean, agile lightweight framework for managing work originating from manufacturing process at toyota production system. Kanban emphasizes continuous delivery, pull system and state of flow. Kanban system is a light weight process.

In a Kanban system, every task is represented by a card on a kanban board, and each card moves through a set number of discrete steps from start to finish. This visual representation makes it easy for software development teams to see what needs to be done and who is working on what at any given time.

The word "kanban" comes from Japanese and translates to "signboard" or "billboard." That's because one of the key features of Kanban is the use of physical kanban board or digital kanban boards to track progress and visualize tasks.

In the previous blog we looked at 'What is Scrum?'. In this blog we will deep dive into understanding 'What is Kanban?' through the below topics.

Kanban Board - Kanban Vs Scrum

Core Principles of Kanban

The six Kanban principles are: visualization, managing flow, limit work in progress, make policies explicit, implement feedback loops, and improve collaboratively.

1. Visualization:

The first principle of Kanban is visualization. This means that all work should be represented visually so that everyone on the team can see what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. One way to do this is with a Kanban board.

The board can be physical or digital, and it should contain all of the tasks that need to be completed, as well as when they need to be completed by. This will help software development teams to see what needs to be done and stay on track.

2. Managing Flow:

The second principle of Kanban is managing flow. This means that work should move smoothly through the system from start to finish without any bottlenecks. To do this, team members need to communicate with each other frequently so that everyone is aware of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.

By keeping the lines of communication open, team members can easily identify bottlenecks and make sure that work is flowing smoothly through the system.

3. Limit Work in Progress:

The third principle of Kanban is limiting work in progress. This means that team members should only work on a few tasks at a time so that they can focus their attention and energy on those tasks. By limiting work in progress, team members can avoid multitasking and complete tasks more quickly and efficiently.

To do this, each team member should have a personal WIP limit (work in progress) that they cannot exceed. For example, if my WIP limit is 3 items, I can only have 3 items on my plate at any given time.

4. Make Policies Explicit:

The fourth principle of Kanban is making policies explicit. This means that all expectations and rules should be made clear upfront so that there are no surprises later on.

By making policies explicit, team members will know what is expected of them and they can plan their work accordingly.

5. Implement Feedback Loops:

The fifth principle of Kanban is implementing feedback loops. This means that team members should give each other feedback regularly so that everyone can learn and improve over time. Feedback should be given frequently so that it can be used to make changes in real-time rather than after the fact.

By implementing feedback loops, team members can learn from their mistakes and become more effective over time.

6. Evolve Exponentially:

The sixth principle of Kanban is evolving exponentially. This means that agile teams should continuously strive to improve their processes and procedures so that they can become more efficient over time.

By constantly seeking ways to improve , teams can ensure that they are always working at their best .and adapting to change as it happens .

Kanban methodology is a lean agile way for managing work. By following these principles, teams can work more efficiently and deliver better results. If you're looking for a way to optimize your workflow, setting up Kanban system may be the answer.

Kanban Workflow from To-Do to Done

In a Kanban team, the flow of work starts with the "To Do" column, which represents items that are identified and ready to be worked on.

  • As work is pulled from the "To Do" column, it is moved into the "In Progress" column, which represents items that are currently being worked on.

  • As work is completed, it is moved into the "Done" column, which represents items that have been completed and are ready for delivery or deployment.

  • The Kanban board is updated frequently to reflect the current status of the work and the team members are encouraged to collaborate and discuss any issues that arise during the process.

  • The team may also use metrics such as lead time, cycle time, work in progress limit, throughput, cumulative flow diagrams and control charts to measure the flow of work, identify bottlenecks and make improvements

  • The kanban method also allows for flexibility, if any item is blocked, it can be moved to a separate column called "Blocked" or "On Hold" and the team can focus on unblocking the item.

  • The team can also review the kanban board regularly to identify areas for improvement and make adjustments to the process as needed.

Kanban Metrics for Project teams

In the Kanban Agile framework, common metrics include:

  1. Lead time: the time it takes for a piece of work to be completed from the moment it is identified to the moment it is delivered.

  2. Cycle time: the time it takes for a piece of work to be completed once it has begun.

  3. Work in Progress (WIP) limit: the maximum number of items that are allowed to be in progress at any given time.

  4. Throughput: the number of items that are completed in a given time period.

  5. Cumulative flow diagram: a graph that shows how much work is in progress and at what stage it is in.

  6. Control chart: a graph that shows how lead time and cycle time vary over time.

These metrics can be used to help teams understand how work is flowing through their system and identify bottlenecks or areas for improvement.

Kanban Board tips for Jira

By using Kanban boards with Jira, a project manager can stay on top of your projects and ensure that tasks are completed on time. Here are some tips for using Kanban boards with Jira software

  • Use swim lanes to organize your tasks on your Kanban boards. Swim lanes allow you to group tasks into categories, which makes it easy to see how many tasks are in each stage of the process.

  • Use columns to indicate the status of a task. For example, you could use the following columns: To Do, In Progress, Done. This allows you to quickly see which tasks are waiting to be started, which kanban cards are in progress, and which kanban cards are finished.

Kanban board example picture
Source - Atlassian
  • Use a Kanban board to track your sprints. You can use a Kanban board to track the tasks that are part of your sprint and make sure that they are completed on time. (Core scrum doesn’t mention about a task board, but most of the scrum teams, use them to track stories / tasks.)

  • Use colors to indicate different type of cards for better visualization. For example all the cards which have been worked upon in last 24 hours can be given a color or any cards which are not moved for a week can be given a color to highlight them.

  • Use custom filters on the kanban board for upcoming releases or key deliverables. They help in segregating the cards for quick search.

  • Wherever possible use the ‘Company Managed’ Jira project type rather than team managed for the many features and better interface it provides to manage projects effectively.

Note: Notion provides a built in ready to use Kanban template, which you can quickly set up for your web3 teams, with least effort.

How to set effective WIP Limits?

When first implementing Kanban methodology, on a basic kanban board, the WIP limitations are often an informed assumption. You might try limiting the restriction for each process step to the same number of team members.

While there is no hard and fast rule for establishing Kanban WIP limits, the basic concept is that each employee should work on a single job at a time.

In Kanban boards, the amount of work in progress (WIP) is limited to help eliminate bottlenecks. This is done by calculating the WIP limit for each stage of the process. The WIP limit is also based on the average cycle time and the number of tasks at that stage.

Efficiency is also a factor while considering WIP limits by segregating value add and non-value ad activities through a value stream mapping exercise. It’s a bit complicated process and can we table it to a future date.

As a rule of thumb, we can have 1 to 2 items per person as WIP limit. Spending too much time in finding the ideal WIP limits for a lane is counterproductive. The WIP limit need to be adjusted as needed to improve the workflow.

By keeping an eye on the WIP limit, teams can make sure they are not taking on too much work at any given time, ensuring that tasks move through quickly and efficiently.

Kanban vs Scrum: Key Differences

Lets quickly look at What is Scrum?

Scrum is an iterative framework that focuses on delivering small chunks of functionality at regular intervals. The term "scrum" comes from rugby, where it refers to how a team comes together and moves forward to achieve the goal.

In software development, scrum refers to the practice of breaking down projects into small pieces, or sprints, which can be completed in typically two weeks intervals. At the end of each sprint, team member reflects on what went well and what could be improved for the next sprint. This feedback loop helps ensure that progress stays on track and that problems are identified and addressed quickly.

Now that we've covered the basics of Kanban and Scrum, let's take a more in-depth look at some of the key differences between these two popular agile frameworks:

1. Approach:

Kanban methodology emphasizes a continuous delivery approach while Scrum uses an iterative sprint approach.

2. Implementation:

Kanban boards can be implemented using physical boards or digital tools while Scrum requires a dedicated Scrum Master to keep track of sprints and progress.

3. Development Team size:

There is no limit to team size in Kanban framework while Scrum teams are typically limited to 8-10 people.

4. Granularity:

In Kanban method, tasks can be typically large and loosely defined while in Scrum, tasks are small and well-defined so they can be completed within a sprint.

5. Workflow:

On Kanban boards, workflows are determined by the team while in Scrum, workflows are predetermined by the Scrum Master in collaboration with PO and dev team.

6. Change frequency:

Changes can be made at any time in Kanaban while changes not recomended between sprints in Scrum.

8. Roles:

There are no specific roles defined in Kanban method while there are three defined roles in Scrum (SM, PO, Development Team).

9. Metrics:

Common metrics used in Kanban method include Lead Time (the amount of time it takes to complete a task) and Cycle Time (the amount of time it takes to complete a task once it has started).

Lead Time and Cycle Time Kanban. Source - DovileMi
Lead Time and Cycle Time. Source - DovileMi

Common metrics used in Scrum include Velocity (the average amount of work completed per sprint) and Burn Down/Burn Rate (a measure of progress over time).

10. Prioritization:

Prioritized product and sprint backlogs are crucial to scrum while in Kanban prioritization not a core element. It focuses more on the flow.

11. Commitment:

At the start of sprint, entire team members commit on the amount of work to be done, while in Kanban teams its optional.


As you can see, there are quite a few key differences between Kanban process and Scrum! While both frameworks share many commonalities—such as their focus on speed, flexibility, and collaboration—they diverge when it comes to implementation details like team size , workflows and metrics.

So which one is right for your web3 project? Scrum is more suited for software development and product development teams and Kanban is suited for handling production requests, maintenance activities, non-engineering team activities etc. However there are software teams also using Kanban effectively in product development teams as well.

You may also want to check out what is ‘Scrumban’ a combination of scrum and Kanban. Ultimately it really depends on your specific needs, org structure, recommendations from PMO and context of your web3 project. For any queries and inputs do reach out to Program Strategy HQ. Good luck!

Recommended Readings

  • A short video from Atlassian, explaining 'What Is Kanban'?

Coming up in the next blog - 'Lean Software Development'.

Note 1: This blog is part of a 100 Days of Learning Series on Web3 Project Management frameworks and best practices published on Program Strategy HQ. For more details on the 100 days of blogging campaign check out Blog 0.

Note 2: Reach out to info@programstrategyhq for any queries.

Note 3: Program Strategy HQ Disclaimer for Reference.