Kanban Maturity Model: Path To Your Antifragile Process Endgame

0 14 min read Business Process Optimization, Corporate Innovation, Kanban


Tech & Business

Kanban Maturity Model is a lean management strategy created to help with agile software development. It shows the process of your development team. So, if you use Kanban Maturity Model to coordinate tasks at your workplace, your team members will be able to see the status of all the tasks in progress.

The genius of Kanban is that it facilitates open communication and transparency so that all team members can contextualize and prioritize each task. Due to this accountability, teams can accomplish more and become more efficient than ever.

Sounds great, right? But we’ve barely scratched the surface.

In this article, we’ll discuss what Kanban is at length, how it can benefit different departments in your company, and what the Kanban Maturity Model does.

Let’s begin!

What Is Kanban?

Kanban is an illustrative scheduling technique that makes it easier to plan projects, work schedules, project delivery, etc. The critical advantage of Kanban is that it increases overall work efficiency and significantly minimizes system bottlenecks.

It also helps you improve the consistency of your workflow and forecast as well as prevent complications by restricting work in progress (WIP) and applying policies relevant to your team.

Benefits of Using Kanban in Your Departments

kanban maturity model benefits

Kanban is a practice used in all domains of work to help teams visualize and improve workflows, saving costs and increasing efficiency.

Let’s look at the five benefits of using Kanban for your organization and its departments:

1. Increased Visibility

Visualization is a crucial aspect of the Kanban technique, and the Kanban board is the most identifiable aspect.

Every project has a backlog of tasks, and each job must progress through a sequence of development phases before being delivered. You can see how tasks move through the workflow using a Kanban board.

The clarity of illustration can help identify bottlenecks as they crop up, allowing for more solution-oriented task management.

2. Increased Efficiency

Every product manager wishes they had more time to work on their projects. When there’s money available, throwing additional resources at a problem is a viable option. But what if you could get more done with what you already have?

Kanban allows you to do just that.

The most evident benefit of implementing Kanban is increased flow efficiency, as visualizing your workflow will rapidly reveal areas of inefficiency. Then you can go on solving and eliminating bottlenecks and problems as they come.

Every barrier you remove makes your process run more smoothly and efficiently.

3. Increased Productivity

Improved efficiency leads to higher productivity, another great benefit of adopting the Kanban way of organization. Kanban increases efficiency by refocusing attention from the beginning of a task to its conclusion.

Cycle time and throughput are the most critical productivity measures in Kanban. Cycle time refers to how long it takes for a job to complete its journey through your system, while throughput refers to the number of tasks completed in a given time.

Keeping track of your cycle time and throughput over time will show you how your company becomes more efficient. The faster activities go through your workflow, the more tasks you’ll be able to finish!

4. Keeps the Team From Being Overburdened

Traditional management strategies entail planning ahead of time and delegating work to your team. As a result, teams find themselves juggling more work than they can handle.

Kanban recommends using a pull system, in which teams only add tasks to the workflow when possible.

One of the critical Kanban techniques is to impose WIP restrictions on each process state. When the WIP limit is reached, no new tasks can be added until another project has been completed.

WIP restrictions help teams avoid working on too many projects at once — which is known to increase inefficiency.

5. Better Focus on Each Task at Hand

Multitasking may make you more productive, but splitting your attention – also known as context switching – comes with a cost. Context switching can waste between five to 30 minutes for each task, depending on the work and the person involved.

With WIP limitations in place, no new activities can be entered into the process until the previous work has been completed. Kanban assists team members by allowing them to concentrate on a single task at a time rather than being distracted by too many tasks.

What Is Kanban’s Design and Implementation Process?

The primary purpose of a Kanban system is to maximize the delivery of value to customers by gradually raising output speed and quality until the system reaches its ideal level. Predictability of delivery timeframes is only achievable when there’s a steady, smooth workflow.

Here’s a quick rundown of the five actions you’ll need to follow to set up a long-lasting and effective Kanban system:

  • Create a flowchart of your current workflow
  • Make a mental image of your work
  • Concentrate on flow
  • Keep your work in progress to a minimum
  • Assess and improve
kanban design and implementation process

1. Create a Flowchart of Your Current Workflow

Identifying the stages in your present work process is the first step in creating a Kanban system. Everyone on your team must participate in the process. Start by discussing how work moves from “To-Do” to “Done” as a group.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the steps a task goes through before it’s finished?
  • Where do handoffs happen?
  • Do you have any review cycles in your work process?

Make a whiteboard diagram of your work processes. To ensure that the processes outlined are accurate, think about how recently finished tasks made their way through each process.

Your workflow will differ depending on your team’s purpose, size, current processes, and industry.

However, it’s vital to remember that there’s no “good” or “bad” workflow. The goal should be efficiency rather than perfection. So, draw a diagram of your current process, complete with all its issues. You’ll have several future opportunities to improve your method.

2. Concentrate on Flow

Flow is a metric that indicates how efficiently work travels through your system. Do tasks progress smoothly from one step in your workflow to the next, with no interruptions or delays?
When there’s a lack of flow, work frequently stops and starts, often spending a lot of time in a waiting state or queue.

Like many other companies, you probably didn’t pay much attention to how work moved through your process before implementing Kanban. But you’re probably noticing areas for improvement now that you’ve planned out your workflow.

Maybe one lane always has twice as many cards as the others — this could be a potential bottleneck. Perhaps work gets stalled at a specific step in your process. To solve this problem, you might automate a portion of that step to get things moving again.

Determine a few adjustments you’d like to make to your board as a team, and then implement them one at a time.

However, you won’t be able to see or assess the impact of your adjustments if you modify too many items at once. Prioritize the changes that will have the most significant influence on the flow.

3. Keep Your Work in Progress to a Minimum

If you’ve created your board and are processing work through it while coming up with new ways to optimize your workflow, you’re now ready to implement one of Kanban’s most crucial concepts: WIP limitation.

Work-in-progress (WIP) management is the systematic process of controlling the amount of work in your system. There are numerous advantages to limiting your work in progress, including:

  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced context switching
  • Improved work quality
  • Smoother handoffs

WIP is the number of cards in the active, or “Doing,” lanes on your Kanban board in a Kanban system. WIP limitations can be established at the team or individual level, and we encourage doing both.

Limiting WIP at the team level might help your team become more productive and efficient. It can help everyone in your team stay on the same page, facilitating easy handoffs and effective communication.

In contrast, limiting your WIP on a per-project basis can help you focus on quickly producing high-quality work by removing the lure of context switching.

4. Assessing and Improving

Your Kanban board, as well as your Kanban practice, should be evolving all the time. Remember: this isn’t a one-and-done situation. Just because your board reflects your process now doesn’t mean it will be similarly efficient three months from now.

So, to continue getting the most out of your Kanban system, be flexible and open to development.

Measuring and analyzing your team’s performance is one strategy to ensure continual progress. Lead time and cycle time are two simple indicators that can give you meaningful information on how to improve your team’s operation.

What Is the Kanban Maturity Model?

The Kanban Maturity Model (KMM) is a structured framework that enables businesses to expand their Kanban systems while obtaining a competitive advantage and long-term agility. It’s a Kanban method-based process improvement model.

The KMM can help teams, departments, or companies improve their work processes. The model depicts seven levels of maturity and demonstrates how to use the Kanban method to progress from one task to the next, considerably improving the business’s economic performance.

Kanban is commonly assumed to be nothing more than a board with columns and colored cards. However, the Kanban method goes beyond that. The Kanban Maturity Model only illustrates that it can be used to coordinate the processes of an entire enterprise.

It addresses two typical challenges in Kanban and agile implementations: overreaching and plateauing, by codifying these experiences.

Overreaching occurs when companies or teams learn about new techniques and try to implement them before they are ready. While overreaching strategies have proven beneficial in evolved situations, they can backfire if implemented too soon.

In contrast, plateauing occurs when progress slows after the original issue that prompted the change is resolved. The KMM addresses these issues by establishing a road map and coaching tools for advancing teams or organizations to the next stage of development.

Thus, the Kanban Maturity Model is a clear roadmap that helps teams evaluate their current status and take action to improve delivery potential.

Teams can use the KMM to:

  • Outline a path for taking their company to the next level
  • Understand and apply Kanban principles to help the company meet its internal goals and client expectations
  • Determine the maturity level of their company in terms of repeatable habits, business outcomes, and management techniques

What Are the Levels of Maturity in KMM?

kanban maturity model levels

The Kanban Maturity Model (KMM) defines levels of Kanban maturity:

0 – Self-evident

At this level, the company is unaware of the need for a well-structured work process. It uses either a physical or online Kanban board to visualize work on a personal level.

However, it’s still challenging for the company to apply Kanban to a team. Individuals are focused on achieving personal goals and getting work done. They don’t consider the bigger picture.

1 – Team-oriented

Team members of a company have already developed a Kanban habit at this stage. As the need to apply the practice to a team level becomes apparent, the team establishes a team board and transfers its work from individual boards to newly-established boards.

To illustrate respective duties, per-person task lanes are added, and the team agrees on starting policies. Collaboration, work integrity, and taking the initiative are all examples of advances at this point. The company is now focusing on deliverability and collaboration.

2 – Customer-centric

At this level, the team recognizes that Kanban improves collaboration and transparency across all classes of service. But while the processes, policies, and decision frameworks are comparable, the ultimate output is still inconsistent.

We can see acts of leadership and evolutionary change at this level, as well as the establishment of flow, internal knowledge, and respect. Demand and capabilities are well understood, so the attention now shifts to product and service.

3 – Fit-for-Purpose

At this level, the company understands the processes, workflows, policies, and decision frameworks and how they contribute to improved results. As a result, the work process becomes more fit-for-purpose.

The company better satisfies its customers’ expectations and maintains a superior upstream and downstream flow, leading to a comprehensive service-level agreement (SLA) between customers and companies.

4 – Risk-adjusted

The company uses a model-driven management approach to strategic planning, which anticipates risks and forecasts outcomes.

This level covers risk-hedging techniques, data-driven decision-making processes, and predictive modeling to improve overall business economics and resilience to unforeseen events.

More profound balance, justice, consumer intimacy, statistical analysis, and dynamic scheduling can also be shown at this level.

5 – Market Leader

From the standpoint of each stakeholder and end-user, the company is completely “fit-for-purpose.”

So, now it’s more critical than ever to keep improving the workflow, increasing efficiency and economic advantages while maintaining high quality and margins, lowering prices, and increasing delivery.

The firm is already demonstrating agility, workforce flexibility, equality of outcome, and perfectionism by focusing on “how do we do things.”

6 – Built for Survival

At this level, the company’s degree of organization is “made to last.” The company can now reinvent itself, is antifragile, and prioritizes long-term survival. It makes consistent decisions and is resilient to dynamic environments.

The company is also mature enough to ask and answer questions like “Are we still supplying the proper products and services, or should we redefine ourselves?” and “Are new technology, processes, or approaches becoming available that we should be adopting?” These are all questions of a strategic nature.

A mature company will keep its finger on the heart of its business and be able to build the required capabilities to match its overall strategy.

Practices and Tools to Improve Your Teams Kanban Maturity

kanban maturity model improvement principles and practices

Kanban is valuable because of its flexibility. However, it must be used following these principles and practices:

1. Start Small

To put it another way, Kanban can be used to improve the current work process. There’s no need to start from the beginning or anything like that.

2. Commit to Incremental and Evolutionary Transformation

There may be considerable reluctance to change in a factory that has never used Kanban. This is not the case with service or software firms.

The incremental and evolutionary transformation principle encourages us to utilize Kanban without hesitation since we want to make tiny, ongoing, and evolutionary modifications to the current process.

3. Respect Current Processes, Roles, and Duties

Kanban installation shouldn’t be interpreted as implying that what’s currently in effect is incorrect and should be replaced.

Processes, roles, and duties may be valuable, and their retention should be evaluated. This corresponds to incremental change, in which minor adjustments are made over time to cause the process to evolve.

4. Encourage and Support Leadership at All Levels

Kanban bypasses the traditional method of limiting leadership to a few tiers. So, leadership should be encouraged and developed at all levels of the organization using the Kanban approach.

5. Visualize the Process

It’s impossible to improve a workflow unless the current workflow is first clarified. You can use tools like the flowchart to help you with this.

Your Kanban board, where each column represents a phase or stage of the workflow, should demonstrate the simplicity of the flow.

6. Keep Work-in-Progress to a Minimum

WIP should be kept to a minimum. You should do this to shorten the time you need for a work item to move through the workflow stages because the more work items there are, the more capability the system has, and the less likely it’s to conclude work items quickly.

Also, keeping the number of work items in progress to a minimum ensures better quality output and a more stable working environment.

7. Control the Workflow

By managing the workflow, we achieve continuous value production. We can establish a continuous flow of work by following up on work items to detect bottlenecks and obstructions and resolving them as quickly as possible.

8. Make Policies Clear

Each work group establishes its own set of policies. For instance, the maximum amount of work items in a stage or the conditions for a work item to transition from one stage to the other as “in development” or “in testing.”

9. Create Areas for Feedback

Improvement must be continuous in Kanban, and this is impossible to attain without feedback mechanisms.

These mechanisms are meetings like the “daily,” in which each team member communicates what they accomplished, what they plan to do, and if they have any roadblocks, as well as service retrospective sessions and risk reviews.

Feedback sessions or meetings should always be brief, preferably less than 15 minutes.

The Kanban technique envisions a succession of meetings with varying goals and frequency. It’s up to the group to determine whether or not to adopt them.

10. Collaborate for Continuous Improvement

Kanban improvement is made through collaborative work, which is only achievable when there’s a clear and shared teamwork vision. So, teams must collaborate and focus on the same goals to foster continuous improvement.

Tools to Use While Getting Started with the Kanban Method

While some firms use traditional Kanban boards with whiteboards and sticky notes, the majority prefer to use online solutions. There are numerous Kanban tools available, as well as project management platforms that can be used to apply it.

jira software screenshot
Jira Board

Trello, Asana, Jira, and Azure DevOps are excellent Kanban board creation and project management tools.


Kanban is a highly effective strategy for organizing your workflow and progressively enhancing efficiency. It promotes cross-functional teams, quick feedback, co-location and coupling, and continuous deployment, among other agile best practices.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Kanban Maturity Model (KMM) is helpful for any individual or team striving towards continuous improvement. It shows companies how to use the Kanban method to grow and expand by explaining practices, beliefs, and cultural characteristics.

KMM has overburdening alleviation strategies that help individuals collaborate in a team, between teams, at the organizational level, or across business lines. It can assist coaches in understanding where the company is now, where it wants to go, and how to get there.

So, if your team members are trying to efficiently manage their workflow and contribute to company-wide success, try Kanban boards. They’ll help you reach a level of business efficiency you may have thought unachievable.

Consult a Professional To Help With Your Processes

iterators strategic roadmapping cta

This article covered how Kanban process grows over time. We hope you have a clearer understanding of Kanban Maturity Model. And that you can take this information to improve processes for your organization.

Are you still a little uncertain about the process? Or do you just not have time to complete the 11 steps? We know people who can help!

At Iterators, we are heavily using STATIK and Kanban methods for everything from software development to administrative, HR, Sales and Account Management processes. We facilitate process design and provide solutions for custom business process optimization.

Contact us today to book a call, so we can discuss how our services can assist you with your processes.

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