Kanban articles


Kanban is enormously prominent among today's agile software teams, but the kanban methodology of work dates back more than 50 years. In the late 1940s Toyota began optimizing its engineering processes based on the same model that supermarkets were using to stock their shelves. Supermarkets stock just enough product to meet consumer demand, a practice that optimizes the flow between the supermarket and the consumer. Because inventory levels match consumption patterns, the supermarket gains significant efficiency in inventory management by decreasing the amount of excess stock it must hold at any given time. Meanwhile, the supermarket can still ensure that the given product a consumer needs is always in stock.

When Toyota applied this same system to its factory floors, the goal was to better align their massive inventory levels with the actual consumption of materials. To communicate capacity levels in real-time on the factory floor (and to suppliers), workers would pass a card, or "kanban", between teams. When a bin of materials being used on the production line was emptied, a kanban was passed to the warehouse describing what material was needed, the exact amount of this material, and so on. The warehouse would have a new bin of this material waiting, which they would then send to the factory floor, and in turn send their own kanban to the supplier. The supplier would also have a bin of this particular material waiting, which it would ship to the warehouse. While the signaling technology of this process has evolved since the 1940s, this same "just in time" (or JIT) manufacturing process is still at the heart of it.


Agile software development teams today are able to leverage these same JIT principles by matching the amount of work in progress (WIP) to the team's capacity. This gives teams more flexible planning options, faster output, clearer focus, and transparency throughout the development cycle.

Kanban Board | Atlassian agile coach






Agile Kanban Board | Atlassian agile coach




The benefits of Kanban



A kanban team is only focused on the work that's actively in progress. Once the team completes a work item, they pluck the next work item off the top of the backlog. The product owner is free to reprioritize work in the backlog without disrupting the team, because any changes outside the current work items don't impact the team. As long as the product owner keeps the most important work items on top of the backlog, the development team is assured they are delivering maximum value back to the business. So there's no need for the fixed-length iterations you find in scrum.


Savvy product owners always engage the development team when considering changes to the backlog. For example, if user stories 1-6 are in the backlog, user story 6's estimate may be based on the completion of user stories 1-5. It's always a good practice to confirm changes with the engineering team to ensure there are no surprises. 

Shortened time cycles

Cycle time is a key metric for kanban teams. Cycle time is the amount of time it takes for a unit of work to travel through the team’s workflow–from the moment work starts to the moment it ships. By optimizing cycle time, the team can confidently forecast the delivery of future work.

共享技能组合可以缩短加工时间。当只有一个人拥有技能时,这个人就成为了工作流中的一个瓶颈。因此,各团队都会采用代码审查和指导帮助等基本的最佳实践来传播知识。共享技能意味着团队成员可以从事复杂工作,从而进一步优化加工时间。这也意味着,如果工作停滞不前,那么整个团队可以群策群力,让流程再次顺畅运行。例如,不是只有 QA 工程师才能进行测试,开发人员也可以参与。



Multitasking kills efficiency. The more work items in flight at any given time, the more context switching, which hinders their path to completion. That's why a key tenet of kanban is to limit the amount of work in progress (WIP). Work-in-progress limits highlight bottlenecks and backups in the team's process due to lack of focus, people, or skill sets.

For example, a typical software team might have four workflow states: To Do, In Progress, Code Review, and Done. They could choose to set a WIP limit of 2 for the code review state. That might seem like a low limit, but there's good reason for it: developers often prefer to write new code, rather than spend time reviewing someone else's work. A low limit encourages the team to pay special attention to issues in the review state, and to review others work before raising their own code reviews. This ultimately reduces the overall cycle time.




Pro Tip:

The team's goal is to reduce the amount of time an issue takes to move through the entire process. Seeing the average cycle time drop in the control chart is an indicator of success. 

Agile control chart | Atlassian agile coach


Cumulative Flow Diagram


We know that continuous integration–the practice of automatically building and testing code incrementally throughout the day–is essential for maintaining quality. Now it's time to meet continuous delivery (CD). CD is the practice of releasing work to customers frequently–even daily or hourly. Kanban and CD beautifully complement each other because both techniques focus on the just-in-time (and one-at-a-time) delivery of value.

The faster a team can deliver innovation to market, the more competitive their product will be in the marketplace. And kanban teams focus on exactly that: optimizing the flow of work out to customers

Scrum 与看板

Kanban and scrum share some of the same concepts but have very different approaches. They should not be confused with one another. 




固定时间周期的 Sprint(例如,2 周)

发布方法 经产品所有者批准,在每个 Sprint 结束时 持续交付或团队自行决定
角色 产品所有者、scrum 主管、开发团队 没有既定角色。一些团队可获得敏捷开发导师的帮助。
关键指标 速度 周期
变更理念 团队应尽量不在 Sprint 期间对 Sprint 预测进行变更。这样做会降低预估的准确性。 可随时变更


一些团队将看板和 Scrum 的理念融合,形成全新的“Scrumban”工作方法。他们借助 Scrum 执行固定时间周期的 Sprint 并获得角色,同时利用看板关注进程中工作的数量限制和时间周期。然而,对于刚刚开始实施敏捷开发的团队,我们强烈建议您选择其中一种方法,并运行一段时间。您以后可以不断变换方法,尝试新花样。 

Dan Radigan
Dan Radigan

Agile has had a huge impact on me both professionally and personally as I've learned the best experiences are agile, both in code and in life. You'll often find me at the intersection of technology, photography, and motorcycling. 

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