Definition of Kanban

Signal(s), derived from the Japanese. A visual indicator that requires human attention/interaction. This is often expressed as a board where a process or workflow may be visualized. Further, this includes use of cards of some form signifying items of work that flow through said process.

The Kanban Method is a product and systems thinking approach to improving delivery of services to customers and the environment in which those delivering the service operate and interact with one another.

An agile development process based heavily on Lean Principles. The main strength of Kanban (from a Scrum point of view) is that its Planning is continuous, which makes it more likely to keep up with reality, and hence more agile.


The primary variable in Kanban is the WIP Length, which is an upper bound on the number of Stories that are allowed to be worked on at the same time. Typically, the WIP Length is a small number like four or five, and the number of Coding Stories that are worked on at any given time is usually slightly less than the total number of coders (not developers) that are on the Team.

Since there are only a few Stories in the WIP, Kanban automatically leads to Swarming – where the Team (or sub-Team or TeamLet) works together on a Story until it is Done.

When using this variant it is tempting for many Teams to relax the commitment to using the Doneness Agreements to manage scope creep and Technical Debt inside Stories. This is because many people see Kanban as saying ‘just do the Story until it’s done’ rather than ‘do it as quickly as you can, while satisfying the Doneness Agreement.’


There is often a misconception in software service/product development that Kanban, or rather the use of definition 1, is what is the definition of #2 is about. While organizations using a visualization board and cards to signify.

Cite This Term

"Kanban" ScrumDictionary.com. Accessed Jun 22, 2024. https://scrumdictionary.com/term/kanban/.