How Kanban works


If you are in a continuously process of developing, advancing and testing a product you may already have heard about kanban. Kanban is Japanese for “card” or “visual signal”. Kanban got invented in the late 1940s by the Toyota Motor Corporation to provide a better engineering process.

The pattern used for this method was the supermarket. They’ve noticed that empty grocery got restocked by supermarkets clerks, not by their vendors supply. When an item was near sellout the clerks reordered it.

Toyota implemented the same principle to their production and pioneered a new approach, the Kanban system.

A new application of the Kanban system emerged 2005 around the leadership of David J. Anderson, Corey Ladas, Jim Benson and others.

This is how it works

Instead of assigning tasks to each team-member e.g. in an development-team, in Kanban for each tasks you create an inividual card. On the card you write down the subject of the task. This cards are pinned onto a pinboard which gets divided into multiple columns. If the task on the card is new you pin it into the leftmost column.

Whenever a team members has finished his actual work, he takes a new card from the column and pins it to the second column, “in progress”. When he finished the task, he pins the card to another column, “done”.

This provides a good overall view of the whole project: You can always see what needs to be done, what actually is in progress and what is finished already.

Between the mentioned columns there can also be more columns depending on your needs, for example “Testing”.

Principles of Kanban

Visualize Work

By creating a visual model of your project you can observe the flow of work through your Kanban system. Making the work visible to every team member leads to increased communication and collaboration.

Limit the Work In Progress

Limiting the Work In Progress (WIP) prevents your team member to work on many different tasks at the same time. This avoids problems caused by task switching and to repriorize the items constantly.

Focus on Flow

By setting a work-in-progress limit you can optimize your Kanban system to improve the smooth flow of your work.

Continuous Improvement

A Kanban system is the cornerstone of a culture for continuous improvements. Your team is able to measure their effectiveness by tracking flow, quality, lead time and more.


Of course setting up a pinboard and pinning cards on it seems to be outdated a little bit. Also it’s hard to handle such things on distributed teams. This is where pinnery comes into the game! It provides a very flexible and fully-featured Kanban-Board for your computers, tablets and smartphones!

Register now for free!

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