Extending the Five Core Practices of Kanban

Posted on April 26, 2012 by admin

Readers familiar with the Kanban Method as described in my book, Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for your Technology Business, or those who read yesterday’s blog post, will know that I identified five core practices associated with successful Kanban implementations. I am now considering extending this list to seven for a second edition of the book and a revision of the standard guidance on Kanban.


The five core practices currently identified are:

  1. Visualize - make the invisible work and its workflow visible;
  2. Limit WIP - implement a virtual kanban system;
  3. Manage Flow;
  4. Make management policies explicit;
  5. and Improve Collaboratively - using models and the scientific method to implement a “guided” approach to evolution. There are no random mutations of the target process with Kanban.


As I’ve identified in presentations and key note speeches I gave in 2010, 2011 and earlier this year, the biggest oversight is leadership. Small acts of leadership from any member of the team need to happen regularly. It is these acts of leadership that make change happen.

So the 6th practice is: Leadership - give permission for ideas and encourage process innovation from any and all team members.

There is also a need for explicit feedback loops. The Kanban book identifies these at two levels:

  • the daily standup meeting at the team and individual contributor level
  • and the operations review at the organization and inter-team or across services level

So collaboration to review flow of work and demand versus capability measures, metrics and indicators coupled with anecdotal narrative explaining notable events is vital to enabling evolutionary change. Organizations that have not implemented the second level of feedback - the operations review - have generally not seen process improvements beyond a localized team level. As a result, they have not realized the full benefits of Kanban observed elsewhere.

So the 7th practice is: Implement Organizational Feedback using Quantitative Measures of Demand and Capability

And the question is, “Should these additional two practices be added to the definition of the Kanban Method?