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What is a kanban?
Kanban is a work management system associated with lean management. It is a "pull system", in which workers take a new task when they are ready (as opposed to a "push system" in which workers are assigned tasks by a manager, regardless of their workload). Two core principles of kanban are:
- Visualize the workflow: Allow everyone to see what is available to work on, what is being done and by whom, how tasks are progressing from available, to being worked on, to done. This allows all workers to take responsibility for making sure tasks make progress, allows the team to all have the same information about what needs to be done, and reveals where tasks are not progressing and need attention.
- Limit work in progress: People are not designed to multi-task. Any task switch incurs a cost in time and forgotten state. If a worker is going as fast as they can, then assigning them another task will not permit them to work more quickly -- it will merely prevent someone else from picking up that task. Thus kanban says, set the maximum number of tasks that one person, or one team, can have in progress at the same time.