Home Kanban Why lead times should be reduced in KANBAN?

Why lead times should be reduced in KANBAN?

by Srinivas Saripalli

In my opinion, it is worth repeating why we use a Kanban system and why the Kanban Method is suitable for change.


The primary causes are overworked knowledge workers, such as software developers, who suffer from interruptions, task switching, and multitasking. Because knowledge labour is unseen and the future is unclear, we must always develop more possibilities than we will ever utilize or need. As a result, workers are always busy because demand outweighs supply. They often start extra tasks without finishing them. This causes extended lead times.

Lack of quality and long lead times Because the job is done by the chemical computers between our ears and most of the knowledge is tacit and kept across a network of people rather than in one person’s head.

Invisible work prevents shared comprehension of the work and the forces that created it. As a result, errors occur! Misunderstandings of invisible work often necessitate large amounts of cooperation and revision. Assuring quality and meeting expectations is an ongoing task.


Delivering knowledge work early typically adds value. Shortening lead times (or cycle times within a single function or activity) is virtually always desirable, regardless of whether early delivery adds value.

Short lead times show agility. They also produce liquidity. Short lead times (or cycle times) are thus useful for risk management. If this is achieved without regulating the use, the idleness provides options (and liquidity), increasing risk management and company response.

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Using Kanban methods, we may reduce WIP and avoid overburdening. Due to the variety of work and process dynamics, restricting WIP will result in certain workers being idle and unable to do certain tasks. Idleness indicates room for progress. Idleness also allows for improvement.

Kanban visualizations help workers see (and feel) the work and the process dynamics. This improves quality and reduces coordinating effort.

Eliminating multi-tasking reduces lead time. Workflow design and staffing techniques may reduce job switching. All of this improves quality. A network’s members often share knowledge. Keeping the duration from start to completion short reduces the danger of knowledge loss or information staleness due to external causes. The end outcome is usually better and faster.

Kanban gives measurements that allow us to evaluate the system’s performance and control it probabilistically. This allows us to make reliable commitments and builds social capital (trust) across the organization. In turn, this can offer the political capital needed to make broader changes that result in even greater improvements.

Recommended ReadingWhat are Kanban Swimlanes and How Do You Use Them?


What is needed to enable all of this is documented in various forums, periodicals & books – namely…

  • Visualize
  • Limit WIP
  • Manage Flow
  • Make Process Policies Explicit
  • Improve Collaboratively (using models & the scientific method)
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Teams and organizations that adopt these 5 strategies frequently (but not always) show increased capabilities and a culture of continuous improvement.

To drive a cultural shift and improve using KANBAN systems, an organization should follow the basic principles of The Kanban Method.

  • Start with what you do now
  • Agree to pursue incremental evolutionary change
  • Initially, respect current roles, job titles, and responsibilities


No way! We appreciate throughput (expressed as value items delivered per period). We value quality. We value the organization’s social capital. We value your feedback. We care about corporate governance and risk management.

What we value is constantly contextual, dependent on a mix of stakeholder and customer expectations.

However, reducing lead time almost always improves stakeholder satisfaction for one or more stakeholders.

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