Lean & Kanban – Executive Briefing

Beginning with Japanese manufacturing in the 1950s, Lean thinking has revolutionised production management across the globe, resulting in now common phrases like Just-In-Time, Zero Defects and Continuous Improvement. Focused on harnessing the ability of workers to continuously and incrementally improve quality, productivity and flexibility while eliminating waste, Lean concepts were first widely applied by Toyota and other Japanese auto-companies. This led to the near collapse of western car makers in the 1980s and 90s.

While Lean concepts have now been successfully incorporated in western manufacturing and operations, their application to software development has mainly been through timebox based methods such as Scrum and XP, collectively known as Agile. More recently, flow based methods such as Kanban have been successfully introduced where agile proved problematic. Scrum can struggle where there is enterprise level scale, unpredictable work arrival and processing times, a lack of cross functional teams or day to day re-planning. Kanban can provide a mechanism to implement ‘pull’ and achieve a flow of work through simple Work In Process (WIP) and kanban signaling systems. As well as coordinating activities across the value stream, Kanban creates an environment to drive continuous improvement, highlighting impediments to flow and encouraging collaboration to resolve issues. In the words of David Anderson, the creator of Kanban, ‘Lean is a destination; Kanban is a means to get there’.


In this half or full day course, we introduce basic lean concepts and principles.  Kanban is based on sound scientific principles, and we briefly review how it implements lessons from queuing, systems, knowledge creation and complex adaptive theories. Then we cover the nuts and bolts of Kanban including Visualization of Work Flow, Metrics (CFD), Limiting WIP, Managing Flow and Attaining Pull, Classes of Service, Explicit Policies and Feedback Loops.  Finally we review a Kanban case study and steps to implementing Kanban in your organization.

In the full day version of this course we cover key concepts in more detail, include extra exercises to illustrate important concepts, as well as running a Kanban simulation game.

Who Should Attend

This course is intended for all contributors and stakeholders including Senior Leaders and Executives, Transformation Agents, Agile and Lean Champions, Project Managers, Team Leaders, developers, testers, etc. in software development and IT.

The course will be delivered in a classroom format with several interactive exercises and opportunities for discussion.


  • The difference between plan-driven and empirical process control
  • When to use Kanban
 – How Kanban can be a better fit in very dynamic & complex work environments
  • The benefits of agile and lean development
  • The key Lean values and principles, and how they apply to software development
  • The Science behind Kanban – Queuing, Systems & Constraint Theories
  • The Lean concepts of Pull, Flow, WIP, Value and Visualisation
  • What Kanban is and how it facilitates a pull based flow of value
  • Kanban Boards, Classes of Service, Input & Output Cadences
  • Setting WIP Limits, Explicit Policies, Balancing Demand and Capacity
  • Agile Software Development practices to increase flow
  • Mapping your Value Stream, Identifying and Addressing Bottlenecks
  • A Kanban Case History
  • A Recipe for adopting Kanban


Note: This course covers many of the foundational concepts of Lean and Kanban and provides ‘Thinking Tools’ to support successful adoption – it helps answer the question ‘Why should we do Lean/Kanban’ and ‘Why does Lean/Kanban work?’. Our 2 day ‘Applying Kanban to get Lean” course focus on the details of implementing Kanban.

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