Business Process Management Glossary

What is KANBAN?

Kanban is a visual project management method originating from the Toyota Production System. Derived from the Japanese words “kan” (visual) and “ban” (card), it utilizes visual cues to manage workflow and optimize efficiency.

Key Concepts of KANBAN:

Visual Management: Emphasizes visualizing work on a board, usually divided into columns representing different stages of a process. Cards or sticky notes represent tasks, offering a clear overview of work status.

Pull System: In a Kanban system, work is pulled only when there is capacity, preventing overloading and ensuring a steady workflow. This contrasts with push systems that force work into the process regardless of capacity.

Limiting Work in Progress (WIP): It sets WIP limits for each stage, preventing bottlenecks and promoting a smooth, continuous flow. This limitation encourages teams to complete tasks before taking on new ones.


Continuous Delivery: It promotes a continuous delivery model, allowing teams to release small increments regularly. This facilitates faster response to changes and a more adaptive approach to project management.

Kaizen (Continuous Improvement): An integral part of Kanban is the commitment to continuous improvement. Teams regularly review processes, identify bottlenecks, and make incremental adjustments for enhanced efficiency.

What are the benefits?

Flexibility: Provides flexibility to adapt to changing priorities. Its visual nature allows teams to quickly identify and address issues, ensuring a responsive and dynamic workflow.

Efficiency and Productivity: By visualizing work and limiting WIP, this methodology reduces idle time and bottlenecks, resulting in increased efficiency and overall productivity.

When to Use KANBAN?

Variability in Workloads: This methodology is particularly effective in situations where workloads vary, as it accommodates changes without disrupting the workflow. It’s an ideal fit for projects with unpredictable task durations or shifting priorities.

Continuous Improvement Focus: Teams seeking a methodology that encourages a culture of continuous improvement find Kanban well-suited to their needs.

Further resources of KANBAN:

Explore more about different process improvement terms in our BPM Glossary.