How does Kanban facilitate change?

Anna Majowska
3 min readDec 9, 2021
Team members gathered in front of a screen.

One of Kanban’s biggest strengths and a core reason why teams choose to use it is its ability to manage change. The change in your process, in your team’s goals and mindset. It helps to deal with change by keeping the process stable, sustainable, and service-oriented. These process traits can be achieved by following the below guidelines.

A stable process

The way to achieve a reliable and solid process is by following Agile’s calling for executing respect for the people involved. Process changes do not take place in a vacuum. They are a part of a cultural and humane condition predating them. Only by building an understanding among the team and working towards an agreement, rather than pushing a change onto the people, can your process evolve and stay stable at the same time.

It comes down to respecting the existing hierarchies and project roles within the team, allowing slack through balancing the expected throughput and demand, and guiding the team in dealing with delays and impediments. The more the team knows about the prescribed ways to deal with inevitable problems, the less anxious and prone to mistakes they should get.

Focus on the customer

Lean, Agile, and Kanban are all customer and service-oriented. It’s the customer that defines the value of your process. It is he who makes or breaks your company’s bottom line. And it is the way you’re able to focus on delivering a service that shapes your company image for the world. Focusing the team on value for the customer and away from departmental or team competition will mold your process as responsive to clients’ requests, more than to internal policies or agendas.

Kanban works customer feedback loops into the process itself. As improvement suggestions become an intricate part of the process flow, you have no choice but to keep responding to your customers’ needs. Furthermore, because Kanban boards can be managed in a decentralized way, all team members can drive the change and product evolution. It both empowers the team and drives service improvement for your clients.

Team working together.

The ease of maintaining the standards

A Kanban-driven process can be self-sustainable and self-organizing. It results from the transparency that a Kanban board affords, and it eases the team’s ability to collaborate well. When we know the entire shape of a process, we’re better equipped to perform our part of it. And with Kanban’s WIP limits, sustaining a manageable process speed and delivery rates becomes achievable. The simplest way a work in progress limit impacts the flow is by forcing the team to finish what they’ve started before tackling more tasks. That alone ensures a more stable delivery.

The visual and work completion stage-oriented nature of Kanban makes it possible to incorporate process policies right into the workflow. Whether these are error-proofing, quality-assuring, or feedback-gathering steps, they can all become another standard step in your process: easy to follow and impossible to miss.

When you first initiate a Kanban process, you’ll hear not to change anything you’re doing now, only to observe it and note why and how things get done. This approach does not hint at Kanban’s ability to manage and work changes into a process, or does it? Yet, it is there. Kanban is an evolutionary process — so while you’ll start where your process originally was, with every iteration, you’ll get the chance to incorporate changes, new steps, additional policies, feedback loops, and other tweaks. And the best thing is, you won’t ever reach a point of a perfect process — that is not the goal. The aim is to keep changing it simultaneously — aligned precisely with how your product, the market, your customers, and your objectives do.

The article was originally posted on the Kanban Tool Blog.