Kanban is Japanese for “visual signal” or “card.” Toyota line-workers used a kanban (i.e., an actual card) to signal steps in their manufacturing process. The system’s highly visual nature allowed teams to communicate more easily on what work needed to be done and when. It also standardized cues and refined processes, which helped to reduce waste and maximize value.
A new application of Kanban emerged for knowledge work as early as 2005, and an inquisitive community formed in 2007 around the leadership of David J. Anderson, Jim Benson, Corey Ladas and others. Their resulting body of knowledge was influenced not only by the Toyota Production System but also by the work of W. Edwards Deming, Eliyahu Goldratt, Donald Reinertsen and other thought leaders.