Kanban and Learning
By adapting the Japanese Kanban approach to active learning, track and also motivate employees.



Kanban, invented at the Toyota Motor Corp., began as an approach to lean manufacturing. Kanban in manufacturing uses a visual board with cards that denote demands and capacities, roles, and other elements of workflow processes. Tasks are pulled into the system, rather than pushed, to ease the impact of system bottlenecks. Items involved in the workflow are visualized on a physical or digital board, so all team members can quickly evaluate process flow and estimate progress.


A Kanban visual management tool facilitates progress by clearly identifying what must be done, in what sequence, and how much activity is required. It serves as both a communication and collaboration tool that can be organized and easily updated to reflect changes or new demands.


The Kanban approach shall be adapted to learning and e-learning, commensurate with any individual or team's goal or goals of learning. It will facilitate a measured step-by-step workflow. An example board, either digitally or on a cubicle wall, may show: To Do - a prioritized list of tasks that can easily be re-structured as circumstances change. In Progress - Kanban limits the 'In Progress' capacity to 3 items to focus efforts. Completed – Overview of what has been finished.

How would you stage or advertise your hack?

Company internal communications, a brief online e-learning video, and team meetings will discuss the adaption of Kanban for employee learning.

Employees and/or Teams may maintain their Kanban boards digitally online, in which case they are automatically viewable and searchable by supervisors and managers. They may also take photos of physical Kanban boards by phone and upload to an online tracker to run OCR and make boards searchable. Stumbling blocks/failures may also be flagged as scope for growth/improvement. Once the initiative progresses inside the company, the Kanban system will be enhanced to show demand-and-supply for skills and learning, thus creating a foundation for invitations to cross-functional teams and cross-pollination meetings.

As employees and teams can visualize their progress, and the progress of others (peer effect!) they will stay motivated and look forward to reaching milestones. Completion of milestones will generate incentives and recognition internally.