I recently wrote what I considered to be the four primary practices of a Kanban System for Software Development:
- Map the Value Stream
- Visualise the Value Stream
- Limit the Work in Progress
- Establish a Cadence
During subsequent discussions on the aspect of Continuous Improvement in a Kanban System, I decided that there was a missing fifth primary practice:
- Reduce the Kanban Tokens
I originally named this practice “Eliminate Kanban”, but was persuaded that this was probably overly sensational, and as a result potentially confusing or misleading. Its intent is that once a Kanban System is in place, the team should be constantly looking to improve it by creating an environment where the work flows naturally. There is a quote that I believe comes from Rother and Shook which says “flow where you can, pull where you must”. By striving to reduce the number of kanban tokens in the system, a team will move towards an environment where they are more self organising and the work can flow. This can be achieved by either lowering the WIP limits or by collapsing the number of distinct stages.