“The Kanban Method doesn’t work for project planning!”, “There is no commitment in Kanban.”, “You have to split your items into even pieces.” What do all these statements have in common? They’re all Kanban myths.

Kanban myths are not uncommon, but they are detrimental to understanding the effectiveness of the Kanban Method and how it actually works.

Let’s reveal why these statements couldn’t be further from the truth!

The Top 5 Kanban Myths Debunked

Today, we’ll look at the five most common Kanban myths and bust them open! It’s time to separate the misconceptions from the facts.

Myth #1: Kanban is Just a Board

Often, when I ask teams whether or not they are aware of the concept of Kanban, the straightforward answer I receive is that Kanban is a way to visualize the work on a board.

Even though visualizing work is one of the main Kanban practices, it is just a tiny part of what the method actually promotes.

Before we continue, let’s take a step back. What actually is the Kanban Method?

It is a method that enables you to manage the flow of work effectively. To consider yourself a Kanban practitioner, the absolute minimum that you need to be doing is having a WIP-limited pull system in place.

In fact, I’d take this even further. If a board doesn’t have WIP limits, it shouldn’t be called a Kanban board.

Myth #2: Kanban Is Only Suitable for Support and Maintenance Work

Many teams believe that Kanban is only applicable when work is popping up unexpectedly and so it is not suitable for project or product development that requires additional planning activities. This is one of the biggest Kanban myths out there.

In fact, the very first implementation of the Kanban Method at Corbis in 2007 has been applied for a very complex product development work. Later on, it’s been used for planning a $10million+ ERP project.

Kanban doesn’t define your process. It sits on top of it and exposes the management practices that enable you to improve that same existing process.

Therefore, as long as you have a process and there is intangible work moving through that process, Kanban has the potential to help you tremendously.

Today, the Kanban Method is applied in education, legal, sales, marketing, HR, design, media, customer support, insurance and many, many more industries.

Myth #3: Kanban and Scrum Are Mutually Exclusive

Another big misconception. In fact, Kanban and Scrum greatly complement each other.

Kanban and Scrum Are Not Mutually Exclusive

Both Kanban and Scrum are designed to help teams build better products and services with fewer obstacles along the way.

However, a lot of product teams still question whether they should use either Kanban or Scrum, in order to deliver outstanding value to their customers. But, in reality, you don’t need to choose between the two; rather, you should discover which practices work best for your team and flex the system accordingly.

And by flexing, I mean using Kanban and Scrum together in order to plan, track, and manage your work more efficiently so that you can release better products, faster.

This strategy is rapidly becoming the norm with many teams who have taken advantage of the fact that Kanban and Scrum go hand-in-hand with each other.

Myth #4: There Is No Commitment in Kanban

This is probably one of the most common Kanban myths that I come across.

The fact that in Kanban teams don’t spend time and effort estimating their work in hours, story points or any other relative complexity measurement, doesn’t mean that there is no commitment in Kanban.

On the contrary, the Kanban Method allows teams to make probabilistic forecasts using their past performance data to provide reliable delivery commitments. Kanban teams adopt practices that enable them to improve the predictability of their workflows and make accurate data-driven decisions.

The forecasting method enables you to move the focus from “When will this be done?” to “How much risk are you willing to take?”. Always remember, the goal behind predicting your delivery times is to manage risk effectively and meet your customer’s expectations. That’s what this activity is all about.



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Myth #5: Kanban Requires All Work Items to Be the Same Size

I’ve been thinking about how this Kanban myth actually came to be. And I believe that it is rooted in the fact that in Kanban, we use throughput to run Monte Carlo simulations and determine the end dates of our projects, or decide how much work to commit to in our next releases.

When we define throughput, we refer to the number of completed work items for a period of time, regardless of their nature, size or complexity. So, people assume that those tickets need to be of the same size to make this work.

You don’t have to split your items into even pieces in order to come up with an accurate delivery forecast. Forecasts don’t produce a single certain delivery date, they come with a range of outcomes and the probabilities of achieving each of them. From there, it is up to you to decide what level of confidence you’d like to manage and this approach certainly doesn’t depend on the size of the work.

The main prerequisite to making accurate delivery predictions is to optimize your system for predictability. To be able to deliver results in a consistent manner, you have to take control of your management practices.

In fact, if you don’t focus on building predictable workflows, nothing will work. There will be no approach that can give you reliable answers. You’d be better off buying a pair of dice and rolling them. You would be working with the same probability of achieving your goals.

If you’re willing to transform your processes into predictable delivery workflows using the Kanban Method, I’d be thrilled to welcome you to our Sustainable Predictability program.

So, now we’ve busted 5 of the most common Kanban myths. There are plenty of others out there, and over time, there will be more to add to the list.

The Kanban Method can easily be misperceived, if not approached with your own business context in mind. But, with the right strategy in place, it’s a sure-fire way to help you drive your company towards sustainable business agility.

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