Kanban System Design


Being able to begin with a “nursery slope” process and move toward an “off piste” process creates an evolutionary style of introducing change. This is in contrast to a revolutionary style of jumping straight into the implementation of a new process. An evolutionary approach is appropriate for contexts where there is strong resistance or where a revolutionary change will highlight more issues than it is possible to resolve effectively.  Large enterprises, with legacy technologies, complex architectures, and political silos, may struggle to make the leap to a having multi-skilled, cross functional teams delivering production code every few weeks.

Whatever approach is taken, it should be remembered that method is only a means to achieving purpose and measuring capability toward that purpose. Rather than focusing on being lean or agile, which may (and should) lead to being successful, we should focus on becoming successful, which will probably involve being lean or agile. The end goal is to be successful, and a kanban system is a means to that end, not an end in itself. To finish with a quote from The Toyota Way [12] by Jeffery Liker, “kanban is something you strive to get rid of, not to be proud of.”


[1] Ohno, Talichi. Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-scale Production.

[2] Seddon, John. Freedom from Command and Control: A Better Way to Make the Work Work.

[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPFA8n7goio

[4] http://www.exampler.com/testing-com/writings/marick-boundary.pdf

[5] Pink, Daniel. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

[6] Tufte, Edward. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

[7] Weinberg, Gerald. Quality Software Management : Vol. 1 : Systems Thinking: Systems Thinking.

[8] Goldratt, Eliyahu. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement.

[9] http://alistair.cockburn.us/get/2754

[10]  Rother, Mike and John Shook. Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate Muda.

[11] Cslkszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

[12] Liker, Jeffrey. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer.

About the author

Karl Scotland's picture Karl Scotland

Certified ScrumMaster, Agile Coach, Kanban Coaching Professional, Accredited Kanban Trainer

Karl Scotland is a versatile software practitioner with over 15 years of experience covering development, project management, team leadership, coaching and training.  For the last 10 years he has been successfully applying Agile methods, and most recently has been a pioneer and advocate of using Kanban Systems for software development.

Currently an Agile Coach with Rally Software in the UK, Karl is a founding member of the Lean Software and Systems Consortium and the Limited WIP Society, and has previously championed Agile and Lean Thinking with the BBC, Yahoo! and EMC Consulting. Karl writes about his latest ideas on his blog at http://availagility.co.uk/

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