Kanban in SAFe®

Kanban in SAFe®

It is said that improvement is eternal and infinite. It should be the duty of those working with Kanban to keep improving it with creativity and resourcefulness without allowing it to become fixed at any stage.

Taiichi Ohno

Kanban (Visual Sign-card in Japanese) was initially created to manage supply-demand and also control the flow of inventory for a pull-based production model by Taiichi Ohno (based on the Super-market pull system) for Toyota Production System (a Lean approach for Toyota to manufacture cars with No-Inventory and No-Debt approach). Today many organizations have started utilizing the Kanban approach as a kanban method and Kanban System (as defined by David J Anderson in the Kanban book and as an evolutionary change approach). The Kanban was part of the manufacturing industry with a physical method, and in many other places like restaurants, we utilize a physical token to manage supply-demand. The primary purpose of Kanban is to create a required pull, based on work-in-process limits rather than overloading downstream workflow with more work-items and enable a smooth flow based on the capacity.

Kanban in SAFe®

In ScaledAgileFramework SAFe®, we have Kanban system and kanban method applied in the form of Portfolio-Kanban, Solution-Kanban, Program-Kanban, Team level kanban/Kanban, to help connect the flow from Business to the Enterprise and to the Teams through visualisation, management, analysing the prioritisation and flow of the Epics, Capabilities, Features and Stories at the respective stages.


SAFe House of Lean


SAFe® promotes a healthy connected kanban method and Kanban system from Portfolio, Solution/Program, and Team stages. This connection to stages helps the members of the value stream to visualize the entire flow and manage them effectively, collaborate on time and communicate necessary changes and feedback efficiently. 

Portfolio Kanban

Portfolio kanban helps us to visualize, manage and analyze the flow of Portfolio level Epics, as shown below and follow from

Ideation->Implementation->Completion states.

Portfolio Kanban

Solution & Program Kanban

Solution / Program Kanban helps at the next level to build the Capabilities/Features related to the approved Epics which are currently in Implementation state. Thus, there is a connection between the stages and also only approved work-items can be pulled to the next step.

Program Kanban

Team Kanban

Team kanban can help to visualize, manage, analyze the Team level workflow and also to understand the completion of stories about the Capabilities/Features & Epics (partially, Since Epics are large work-items) for end-to-end flow and closing of the feedback loop.


Epic Capabilities Features Stories Connected

In Summary, Kanban in SAFe® provides Transparency, Inspect & Adapt, connectivity between Portfolio, Solution, Program and Team stages, where the entire end-to-end flow (full value-stream connected for the ideation, implementation, and completion with acceptance) is visible to all stakeholders.

More SAFe® Information and Focus on Leadership

Implementing SAFe with SPC4 Certification

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