You already have a reasonable product development process. Your employees also work largely independently and in a self-organised fashion. The interaction between employees and managers fits, although working from the home office poses some new challenges in terms of how employees should be managed in day-to-day business. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but when everything is running quite smoothly, it is difficult to find the right levers for systematic improvement measures. This is where the use of Kanban can be a sensible next step. The introduction is straightforward based on existing processes, and you quickly gain detailed transparency about the strengths and weaknesses of your system.

Greater transparency and flow through Kanban

Kanban brings flow into R&D and provides clarity about waiting times and bottlenecks. Central elements of this agile method include:

  • Leading at the point of value creation,
  • The “Pull Principle”,
  • Transparent task control on Kanban boards and consistent
  • Work-In-Progress (WIP) limits that prevent multitasking.

You make faster decisions based on better information and shorten your lead times. Your managers get right into the action without disrupting the capacity of staff for self-organisation.

Bringing managers to the place of value creation

R&D leaders now spend much of their time in meetings and doing administrative tasks. They are expected to steer development, but lack the oversight to do so. As a result, the work done by the teams suffers – the workload fluctuates, priorities remain unclear, multitasking is the order of the day, decisions are delayed, and waiting times arise. The development organisation literally “clogs up”.

Kanban in R&D – ideally complemented by shop floor management – solves this bottleneck. The central elements of a Kanban system are the Kanban board, which visually shows which tasks the employees are working on. In addition, there is a WIP limit with which each employee limits the number of tasks worked on in tandem. This eliminates harmful multitasking and reduces the mental set-up time. All pending tasks are collected in a Backlog and processed according to the “Pull Principle”, which promotes the self-organisation of employees and, at the same time, increases motivation. This system is flanked by key figures, progress overviews and boards for continuous improvement processes.

The introduction of Kanban is very straightforward and lends itself to task control in the line organisation of a multi-project management environment. The classic project management organisation remains in place.

Kanban light

With “Kanban light”, you anchor the fundamental principles of Kanban – and thus also its advantages – in your existing processes. With a Kanban board designed according to your requirements, you visualise the tasks of all involved employees. Bilateral coordination with the manager promotes the self-organisation of employees. Neatly coordinated acceptance criteria increase quality and reduce the error rate.


The next stage of expansion is a fully comprehensive Kanban system that supports joint teamwork as an extension of Kanban light. Bilateral coordination between employees and managers is largely replaced by a daily stand-up. Employees pull their tasks according to the Pull Principle. In addition, the team monitors its throughput and waiting times with the aid of a cumulative flow chart.


With a Kanban system supplemented by elements from the Scrum framework, the team expands its focus on continuously developing processes and collaboration. To this end, the role of Kanban Master is taken up and regular retrospectives are conducted.

From this Kanban level, the transition to working with Scrum is possible with only a few additions and offers further advantages, especially for complex development processes.

Whether it’s “Kanban light”, “Kanban”, or “Scrumban”, transparency and a focus on efficiency and effectiveness are created in a short time. Getting started is uncomplicated, but should be supported by experienced personnel. Individually adapted Kanban boards are just as important as the consistent training of the employees concerned. We at CO Improve are happy to support you and ensure that, after just a short introduction phase, irreversibly good results are achieved and that – just as important – employees and managers alike enjoy the benefits.

The benefit to you

  • Kanban helps you – as an agile method with a low entry barrier for task control – in a multi-project environment in the line organisation.
  • Clear task prioritisation ensures that employees always know what they and the other team members are supposed to be working on.
  • Kanban boards create a high level of transparency for everyone.
  • WIP limits reduce harmful multitasking and the associated mental set-up time.
  • Managers once again control their teams effectively in daily stand-ups at the point of value creation.
  • The Pull Principle prevents any clogging.
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