Understanding the Kanban Dictionary

Feeling lost with all the Kanban terms used by your team? Want to make sure you’re using all of the right words?

Kanban is one of the most popular Agile methodologies, and it’s not going anywhere. For Project Managers, it’s essential to know and understand core Kanban terminology. From its initial roots at the Toyota manufacturing floor, Kanban has become the ideal method to manage and continually improve work across systems by balancing demands with available capacity and improving bottlenecks. Simply put, Kanban helps teams work together more effectively.

What is Kanban?

Kanban provides a different approach to project management. It helps to organize the chaos surrounding projects through prioritization and understanding the workflow. By visually displaying the workflow, you uncover process issues that you can solve before they impact delivery, allowing for a better customer experience.

Four foundation principles guide kanban.

  1. Start with what you know
  2. Agree to pursue evolutionary change
  3. Respect current roles, responsibilities, and titles
  4. Encourage acts of leadership at all levels

Let’s talk Kanban with some of the key terms.

Constraint/Bottleneck reduce their impact on projects before they happen.

Cycle Time – The time it takes for a request to be completed from when the work starts and ends.

Kaizen – The idea of Kaizen started in Japan, most notably with Toyota, and promotes continual improvement to processes with the elimination of waste.

Kanban Board – A Kanban board encompasses the entire workflow visually and is divided into three columns, Requested, In-Progress, and Complete. Teams can share one board or might utilize multiple boards and seek to optimize each workflow. The visual representations help organizations to understand the critical path and identify any bottlenecks.

Lead Time – The clock to calculate lead time starts from the moment a request is made and stops when the request has been fulfilled.

Work-In-Progress – Tasks that are currently being worked on that have not yet been completed. Commonly referred to as WIP.

Looking to try Agile with your team? Explore more about Agile, see how Kanban board function, and what they can do for your agile team with our webinar here.