How the 9 Kanban Values Can Help Boost Business Productivity

Most teams that start looking into implementing Kanban in their organizations think that they’re all set when they have a Kanban board. This thinking is far from the truth. Kanban is more than just a bunch of cards and a board. Kanban requires a solid foundation to be implemented effectively in any organization or team. Much like how you have company values for your organization, you also have Kanban values. These nine Kanban values establish the right mindset and perspective for teams that are doing Kanban. Knowing the Kanban values and practicing them will help your team reap the full benefits of the system and boost your business productivity. 

But just what are these Kanban values? Let’s explore each one and see how they help elevate your business productivity. 

The Nine Values of Kanban to Improve Your Business Productivity


One of the foundational principles of Kanban is, “Start with what you do now.” Kanban is famous for that principle. This is why we tackle understanding first in the list of the nine Kanban values. Before you embark on any change you want to cultivate in your organization, you must establish a common understanding first. What is it that you’re trying to change? What part of the process needs improvement? How are things in the present? Why are they such?

To be fully productive in your business, you need to know what you want to change or implement first. Understanding helps anchor everyone and establish self-awareness on how the process is and why it needs to be improved.


The next on the Kanban values list is agreement. Understanding and agreement are very much connected. These two values work hand-in-hand in making a Kanban implementation effective. Another foundational principle of Kanban is, “Agree to pursue incremental, evolutionary change.” After coming to a common understanding of the current state of your process, everyone must reach an alignment on the problem and how to resolve it. Without an agreement, you cannot fully push forward with your initiatives. You will experience fragmentation, confusion, and misalignment that will pull back your team from progressing.

To ensure productivity in your business, you must always reach for alignment first before diving into too much detail on how to move forward. This helps lock in the team’s vision on what the ideal future state looks like for the process.


It’s no surprise that respect is one of the Kanban values. The third principle of Kanban states, “Respect the current process, roles, responsibilities, and titles.” Kanban’s non-radical approach to change is something that teams get drawn into. Unlike other process improvement methodologies that introduce changes in roles, practices, and titles at the onset, Kanban has an evolutionary and incremental pace when it comes to change management. And only when it’s necessary should change be implemented. It should also be agreed upon by everyone involved. 

Implementing business changes is inevitable. If you want to effectively do it and have lower resistance from your teams and employees, you must exercise respect. No one likes to navigate unknown waters. Do it in a way that takes into account the current roles, responsibilities, and processes and enjoin the team to partake in the evolution. This will prevent confusion, speculation, and anxiety to change. 


The fourth principle of Kanban describes this Kanban value perfectly, “Encourage acts of leadership at all levels.” Exercising leadership does not require a position or title. When the work environment and culture are conducive for teams to self-organize, anyone can display leadership. Leadership in this context means that teams are not reliant on senior management to drive decisions and execute changes. It also means that there is mutual respect, trust, and support between management and individual contributors. Because there is understanding and alignment with everyone involved in the business, it’s easier for teams to exercise leadership and increase their chances for success.


The next on the Kanban values list is important as it tackles one of the key Kanban practices which is measure and manage flow.

Flow is how work items, information, and people go through a business process or system. The goal is to achieve a smooth and steady flow of work when practicing Kanban. It is then important to understand how work flows and agree to what needs to change and how to do it. Then the next will be to measure the impact of the applied changes and assess whether it’s improving the flow of work or not. 

The emphasis of flow as a Kanban value is important for any team to understand. Without a solid understanding of the business flows involved, your efforts in improving it will be in vain. How productive your process will be is dependent on how smoothly work flows through it. 

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Customer Focus

Customer focus is also related to the Kanban practice of, “Measure and manage flow.” This is primarily because a smooth and efficient flow results to:

  • Faster delivery
  • High quality
  • Higher levels of customer value

When teams adopt a customer-focused approach to completing work, they recognize the inherent value of the tasks that they do. It’s no longer just about getting things done. But it also means getting the right things done. When we use right in this context, it means that we are doing work that satisfies the customers needs and expectations. Doing so will increase productivity because it lessens rework and process waste.


One of the Kanban values relates to three of the Kanban core practices. And if you had to make a guess, that Kanban value is transparency. The three Kanban core practices that it supports are:

  • Visualize the workflow
  • Make policies explicit
  • Implement feedback loops

Kanban creates transparency by making work and the workflow visible to everyone. It also creates transparency by making all policies and process parameters explicit. It makes execution more seamless and decision-making easier. Lastly, Kanban creates transparency by installing interaction points between the business and its customers. Everyone knows and has access to customer feedback.

Highlighting transparency also makes it easier for teams to find inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and areas for improvement. It increases productivity and overall efficiency as well. 


Second to the last on the list of Kanban values is balance. This value relates to the Kanban core practice, “Limit work-in-progress (WIP).” Maintaining balance in flow is crucial to a successful Kanban implementation. When WIP is limited, teams are more focused on delivering quality products fast. When products get to customers faster, feedback is also received faster. This speeds up the learning process for teams and allows them to adjust their plans, if necessary.

Kanban can also be used to visualize different streams or types of work. When teams have a variety of work types to handle, they can organize the work in different swimlanes on their board. This makes work more transparent and allows them to find the balance in delivering a variety of work. 

All of these contribute to higher levels of productivity for teams. 


Last but not least on the Kanban values list is collaboration. It underpins the Kanban practice, “Improve collaboratively, explore experimentally.” This Kanban practice highlights the use of models and the scientific method in evolving work systems and processes. This practice ensures an objective and data-driven view on continuous improvement. A collaborative approach to process improvement pushes everyone to be responsible and accountable for improving their work. It then creates a ripple effect that activates all the other Kanban values and compels teams to practice them. 

Boost Business Productivity with Kanban Values

Kanban values are at the heart of any Kanban implementation. If you want the Kanban practices and principles to stick and be applied effectively, you must start with introducing the Kanban values. These are the underlying beliefs and perspectives that teams must know and apply to take full advantage of their Kanban system

When the nine Kanban values are observed and practiced by teams, their business productivity not only improves but creates predictability in the work that is churned out of the process. So if you’re looking to use Kanban in your organization, start with establishing a strong foundation first. Start with introducing Kanban values and let them drive your Kanban implementation successfully.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.

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