KANBAN - Upstream Downstream and WiP

Economists speak of supply and demand, scarcity of resources etc. In this grand scheme of things, the overarching influence of capitalistic tendencies, an individual is more often than not a means to an end. Then there is the constant effort from people who tries to earn a decent living, improve living standards etc. And on top of it all, the altruistic heart that wants to contribute towards society and give something back.

Any effort required is constrained by time and energy. One of the smart ways of dealing with this limited capacity, is use of scheduling techniques like KANBAN.

Kanban (看板?) (literally signboard or billboard in Japanese) is a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing.Kanban is an inventory-control system to control the supply chain. Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, developed kanban to improve manufacturing efficiency. Kanban is one method to achieve JIT

The book by the same name authored by David J Anderson, explores the concept and gives practical insight into its implementation.

One of the interesting thing about the book is, how it links the concept and it’s application to the authors visit to the park in Japan. In short, the author visits the park early in the morning, once in the park a park official distributes tokens for free, one for each visitor. The official returns to his office, not explaining much about the coupon. A big queue forms up in the park entrance, no one is let in, yet! When some one leaves the park they return the token placed at the exit. I guess you already know what the token was for :).  The number of new visors who enters the park(for free ) is based on the number of tokens returned. The token is used to control the number of visitors present at the park at a given time. So as to not over crowd the park, and to ensure comfortable stay for the visitors. 

That’s capacity management people! This in essence is Kanban Method.

The author goes further to elaborate on how Kanban is applied in IT firms.

My humble take on Kanban, it’s a very good way to track work in progress, pipeline and capacity, so that an individual is only working at optimal load. That helps maintain quality of work and keeps the upstream and downstream in loop and maintains visibility on delivery.

The visual representation of work in process and pipeline, helps keeping track of the existing workload and the workload coming in, on top of it all - helps to prioritize. Ive been using Pomodoro for time management and from personal experiences its been useful in taking work in progress(WiP) items to completion.

Every new request of work/task goes into the pipeline by default, then based on the priority of the work ( mostly dictated by long term plans, objectives and customer expectations) it is moved from pipeline to work in progress. The allocation to a team member depends on their existing WiP and their expertise. Below is a sneak peek at the simple Kanban Board( the words are jumbled up on purpose) shows the pipeline, WiP for 3 people, completed items and some items that are put on hold.

A Kanban sticky note Wall

Give Kanban a try, it might just help you out with quite a few things, the other important thing is to seek afiya (ease, health, comfort etc) from HIM.


  1. Hi Folks,

    A test environment can be found here ..!



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