Essential Kanban Condensed - David J. Anderson

Essential Kanban Condensed - David J. Anderson

Discover in this summary what the Kanban method is and its importance for optimizing project flow and achieving high-performance results.

The business environment has been undergoing constant changes and adapting to the transformations is a matter of business survival.

Therefore, the author of "Essential Kanban Condensed" has detected a new approach to traditional project management procedures.

The Kanban methodology was popularized by David J. Anderson and focuses on continuous improvement of the value chain of a product or service through an overview of the workflow.

The practice is an excellent tool for charting the path to business agility that large industries have applied for many decades.

Read on to understand more about the principles and values of this method.

The book "Essential Kanban Condensed"

Essential Kanban Condensed” was published on July 28, 2016 by Lean Kanban University Press.

The book has 77 pages of content with a glossary and author's notes at the end.

The book brings, in a succinct way, the concept and how to apply the Kanban method, being it an excellent option to make business processes in several areas more agile and optimized, not only in technology.

Who is David J. Anderson?

David J. Anderson is the pioneer of the Kanban method in technology and founder of Kanban University and David J Anderson School of Management.

With more than 30 years in the software industry, he started his career developing computer games in the 1980s and has experience in companies such as Motorola and Microsoft.

Besides being the author of Essential Kanban Condensed, David is known for having published other works: “Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for your Technology Business” and “Lessons in Agile Management: On the Road to Kanban”.

Why read “Essential Kanban Condensed”?

The book "Essential Kanban Condensed" is recommended for people who want to get deeper into project management to achieve the company's strategic goals and is especially essential for business owners, managers and employees.

Kanban can also be applied in organizations in various fields, such as product design, software development, finance, creative activities, computers and information technology and others.

By reading this summary, you will learn about the benefits of the Kanban method and the principles for defining, managing, and improving products and services.

What are the main points of "Essential Kanban Condensed"

  • The method is known as “start with what you do now”;
  • Kanban shows how the team works;
  • It is guided by values;
  • The goal of Kanban is to control the work in progress;
  • Employees who use the Kanban methodology are more independent and productive;
  • The method improves the alignment between the whole company, because each employee can see the complete workflow;
  • Kanban improves service delivery and increases customer satisfaction.

What is Kanban?

To understand what this methodology is, we first need to differentiate the variations of the word "kanban".

The term "kanban", with a lowercase "k", originated in Japan and means "sign", "signboard" or "large visual signal". It is used to contextualize the "kanban system" or "pull system" of limiting work in progress, a concept we will understand better in the following.

Kanban", with a capital "k", refers to the Kanban method that got this name after David J. Anderson's presentations to Microsoft in 2005.

The author says that the work is a starting point for the journey of learning about Kanban. In this way, David characterizes the method as “start with what you do now”.

Kanban is a visual system that makes the work done by the company tangible, ensuring that activities are carried out in a balanced way and that the team is able to get the job done.

This is done using visual signals on a physical or virtual board (Kanban board) that represents the system that limits the Work in Progress (WiP).

The methodology brings an overview of the work done by the team, the quantity of tasks to be performed and the quality of the product or service delivered to the customers.

Who developed the kanban system?

The kanban method was created in the 1940s by Taiichi Ohno, an engineer at Toyota. The inspiration for kanban systems comes from the organization of the stock flow on supermarket shelves.

Ohno applied this idea at Toyota through visual signals and cards to align the inventory level with the use of the elements to make the vehicles. This process became known as "just in time" manufacturing. It reminds you of your high school history classes, doesn't it?

After this event, Kanban was implemented by large software development companies and was popularized by the author of "Essential Kanban Condensed", David J. Anderson.

How to use Kanban?

According to David J. Anderson, for a workflow system to be a kanban system, it must meet a few conditions:

  • Signs to limit WiP;
  • Named columns or lists (To Do, Doing, Done) that can be adjusted as needed by the project;
  • Division of the workflow into sections and cards for each activity;
  • Commitment and delivery points must be identified;
  • Before the point of commitment there may be a set of ideas that may or may not be selected.

Essential Kanban Condensed - David J. Anderson

Source: Image taken from the book "Essential Kanban Condensed", page 8.

The author points out that the workflow should prioritize the delivery of value and minimize waiting time. In this sense, David mentions the term Lead Time:

The time that an item is in process between the commitment and delivery points is referred to as the Lead Time for the item. 

What are the benefits of Kanban?

By applying this method, the organization can achieve better alignment between all areas of the company, which means that the strategic objectives are achieved more easily.

In addition, the organization of the activities performed and a balanced workflow among all employees leads to greater agility and allows the application of the Kaizen philosophy (continuous improvement).

This means that should any setbacks arise, whether due to the external environment or issues within the company itself, Kanban allows the problem to be circumvented. As a result, the method is also called the Alternative Path to Agility.

Finally, with Kanban it is possible to implement feedback loops. Through graphical indicators or workflow review, the manager can make sure that the team's delivery did or did not meet the customer's needs and minimize risks due to the immediate visibility of the problem.

What are the 6 rules of Kanban?

The Kanban method has six foundational principles:

  • Start with what you do now;
  • Agree to pursue improvement through evolutionary change;
  • Respect the company's organization;
  • Encourage  acts  of  leadership  at  every  level;
  • Focus on your customers’ needs;
  • Create objectives to improve customer and business results. 

What are the values of Kanban?

Besides principles, Kanban is also driven by values that stimulate continuous improvement of services through good team relationships.

The values can be summarized solely in the word "respect". According to the author, for processes to work successfully, all individuals involved must be respected.

The kanban system has a set of eight other values:

  • Transparency;
  • Balance;
  • Collaboration;
  • Customer focus;
  • Flow;
  • Leadership;
  • Understanding;
  • Agreement.

What are the 7 Kanban cadences?

According to David J. Anderson, besides relying on the kanban system, the method is also characterized by feedback loops: seven cadences opportunities.

Cadences are the cyclical review meetings that stimulate continuous improvement and effective service delivery for each team. The choice of the ideal cadence for reviews will depend on the context of the organization and is a decisive point for future good results:


1. Strategy Review


Its purpose is to select the services to be provided, review the business strategy, and ensure that the product and delivery correspond to the values expected by the market. The cadence is quarterly.


2. Operations Review


It is the global review of the system to understand the features to maximize value delivery to customers and suggest Kaizen events. The cadence is monthly.


3. Risk Review


It seeks to review the risks of the kanban systems and solve the problems that compromise delivery. The cadence is monthly.


4. Service Delivery Review


The purpose of this analysis is to review and improve the effectiveness of a product or service in order to verify that they are being delivered in accordance with customer requirements. The cadence is fortnightly.


5. Replenishment Meeting


It is a meeting to define and move elements to the commit point and decide which activities will be worked on in the next deliverable. The cadence is weekly.


6. Kanban Meeting


It is a 10 to 20 minute meeting to review the work status between the employees responsible for the delivery of the product. The cadence is daily.


7. Delivery Planning Meeting


It aims to monitor and plan the customer acceptance criteria. The cadence varies according to the deadline of each delivery.

How to apply Kanban in your company?

To implement the Kanban method in his organization, David argues that managers must recognize that work involves a flow of value from the customer's request for the product or service to its actual delivery.

In other words, they should perform a visualization exercise of the work and the process for delivery. Once this is done, the process should be continuously improved, applying the practices, principles, and values of Kanban.

According to the author, by doing this you will be applying the method without even using a kanban system (with the visual signals to limit WiP).

However, if you are looking for a tool to introduce kanban in your company, David J. Anderson shares the Systems Thinking Approach to Introducing Kanban (STATIK).

The STATIK method is a way to define the steps to adopt Kanban in an organization:

  • Step 0: Identify services;
  • Step 1: Understand what makes the service fit for purpose for the customer;
  • Step 2: Understand  sources  of  dissatisfaction  with  the current system;
  • Step 3: Analyze demand;
  • Step 4: Analyze capability;
  • Step 5: Model workflow;
  • Step 6: Discover classes of service;
  • Step 7: Design the kanban system;
  • Step 8: Socialize the design and negotiate implementation.

The steps are not necessarily sequential and it is normal to review all points for further improvement.

Other books about productivity

Kanban is used as the main process or with SCRUM. So learn more about this other methodology with the book “SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, by the author Jeff Sutherland.

Jake Knapp, in his book “SPRINT”, shows that it is possible to test your product before delivering it to the customer so that you can understand possible designs and improve it in time.

In “Smarter Faster Better”, by the author Charles Duhigg, you will learn to set goals, see opportunities and make good choices to achieve productivity in life and in business.

 How can I apply Kanban in practice?

  • If you don't want to use Kanban in a physical way, you can use some online system like Trello to keep track of projects and ensure that the team will meet the deadlines; 
  • Understand all the company's processes, from the simplest to the most complex;
  • Encourage leadership in all teams in the organization;
  • Understand and focus on your customers' needs;
  • Let employees manage the work independently;
  • Motivate your team to bring feedbacks for process improvement;
  • The participation of all employees is important! Work with motivation instead of obligation.

Rate the book summary "Essential Kanban Condensed"

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Essential Kanban Condensed - David J. Anderson

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