What is Kanban? Principles of Kanban | Practice of Kanban

The wise Japanese have come up with a system that helps to work as conveniently and efficiently as possible. Together with the national project ” Labor productivity “, we tell you how to correctly apply it.

What it is

Translated from Japanese, the term means “billboard, sign”. And this perfectly captures its essence. This business management system allows you to visualize the workflow and break it down into different stages. If you do everything right, you can get the desired result just in time – without burning deadlines and burnt-out employees.

How Kanban came to be

The kanban concept was developed and first applied by the Japanese auto giant Toyota. In 1959 the firmstartto test this system and already in 1962 transferred all its production to it. It all started by chance: engineers at the Toyota plant in America began to travel around the country and were greatly impressed by the management of local supermarkets. Stocks of goods were replenished as soon as the shelves were empty, and did not depend on supplies. This organization of work inspired managers to revise the work of the enterprise in general and the warehouse in particular. Signal cards were used, and employees were able to independently control the production process.

How the system looks in practice

Let’s say Toyota calculates a yearly sales plan, breaks it down into months, and gets the average daily car production. Sales managers negotiate sales with dealers. At this time, the warehouse already knows how many finished machines need to be produced, and prepares cards for each workshop. They indicate how many spare parts need to be made, their number, the responsible department and the further chain. As soon as they are ready, some cards are removed and others issued with an indication of new parts.

Thanks to this “card conveyor”, a phased assembly of the car takes place. At the same time, accuracy is ensured in everything: both in the number of necessary parts, and in the volume of production, and in sales. Everything is done when needed, and the warehouse does not work on the formation of excess stocks. In addition, this philosophy allows you to find defects at each stage of the work. After all, if you break a large task into several small ones, it becomes easier to control the process and identify shortcomings at each stage.

Basic Kanban Principles

The Kanban method is considered convenient because it includes only a few principles.


First you need to create a whiteboard – virtual or real – and dedicate it to the task at hand. The process is broken down into stages, which are placed one by one in the form of cards. The simplest kanban scheme can consist of three steps: what needs to be done, what is currently in progress, and what has already been done. But the number of stages can be any – as many as needed for production.


Many people know the feeling when things are stacked on top of each other and turn into a huge snowball. To prevent this from happening, you need to clearly determine how many tasks you, your employee or department can solve with high quality in the available time frame. The plan for the week, month, quarter must be realistic.


Kanban teaches that you don’t have to constantly plan. It’s important to get things done. Therefore, the priority is unfulfilled tasks. To quickly solve the accumulated, you can connect other employees or revise the use of resources.


For kanban to work, you need to follow it for a day or two. Check the cards on the board and don’t jump from one task to the next. It is important to observe the principle of “particular to general” and remain calm.


Kanban allows you to understand how many tasks are inside the process and at what stage they are stalled. This allows us to find defects in work in a timely manner and eliminate them.

What areas is Kanban suitable for?

The method was adopted not only in the automotive industry. Kanban is so versatile that it can be easily implemented in almost any field. Today it is one of the most popular ways of organizing work in IT. It is also used successfully in construction, HR, retail, procurement and even banking.

In addition, kanban can even be used to differentiate between personal and work tasks. And even for family budgeting and vacation planning.

How to implement it into work

Everything is extremely simple: you need a board and cards. You can use the old-fashioned way to use the large white board, which is sure to be in every office. Employees will be able to stick task stickers on it and follow the process.

You can turn to virtual instruments. For example, Trello is an intuitive and convenient service (and also free). It is available not only on a computer, but also as a mobile application, which allows you to always be in the know. There is another program, Kaiten, with a free 14-day trial period. It takes into account one of the main principles of kanban – consistency. Each employee can be given a limited number of tasks: he will not be able to hang new ones on the board until he has completed the old ones.


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