What is The Kanban Maturity Model? How Does it Work and More

Businesses relentlessly pursue stronger workflows, market-tuned flexibility, and customer-centric value. The Kanban Maturity Model emerges as a robust compass, steering teams through a step-by-step refinement journey leveraging Kanban principles.

Crafted by lean/agile experts, it offers a full roadmap for weighing current aptitude, pinpointing enhancement avenues, and driving agility plus streamlining through gradual progress.

By progressing across its 7 development tiers, teams progressively master workflow direction, collaboration, transparency, limiting works sprawl, achieving ultimate smooth flow and value output.

Not one-size-fits-all, the framework customizes to every organization’s uniqueness. Still, it provides a well-structured approach to implementing Kanban practices, cultivating change, and a drive for constant upgrading through guidance and refinement.

Overall it ignites an evolutionary journey toward excelling at reactivity, optimization, and delivering customer-driven outcomes through disciplined adaptation and non-stop learning.

Key Highlights

  • The Kanban Maturity Model offers a methodical path for companies to check and refine Kanban techniques.
  • It outlines 7 development stages — each one expanding on the last — letting teams and businesses constantly evolve workflow mastery.
  • Adopting this Model empowers agility, optimized processes, and relentless refinement throughout the business.
  • It serves as a detailed map for pinpointing upgrade opportunities, adopting industry best practices, and tracking movement along the Kanban journey.
  • By progressing through the Model’s stages, teams can boost teamwork, visualize efforts underway, control simultaneity, and arrange methods for peak fluidity delivering top value.
  • Not a one-size-fits-all cure, it still ignites an evolutionary motion toward excelling at flexibility, efficiency and fulfilling ever-changing customer needs through disciplined learning and refinement.
  • The Model nurtures optimization through clarity, structure, and benchmark-driven motivation toward advancing up the Kanban aptitude ladder over the long haul.

What is the Kanban Maturity Model?

The Kanban Maturity Model provides a step-by-step framework for weighing Kanban usage aptitude and charting the route toward higher capability.

Image: A diagram showing the levels of Kanban Maturity Model (KMM)

Crafted by experts in lean/agile practices, this model serves as useful guidance for optimization-minded companies.

At its core, the model recognizes upgrading Kanban demands relentless refinement plus organizational evolution over time.

It lays out progressive stages that let businesses enhance techniques, spark collaborative spirit, and ultimately drive better results.

The model acknowledges every company starts in a different Kanban position, with varied know-how, workflows, and cultural preparedness.

By offering a detailed roadmap, it helps pinpoint current standing, grasp linked challenges/prospects and systematically achieve superior skill levels.

As progress accelerates, businesses can expect perks like better workflow visibility, decreased lead times, stronger teamwork, and increased customer-focused output.

The model advocates a full lifecycle method, addressing Kanban’s technical and cultural/change leadership aspects essential for prosperous usage.

Whether just beginning Kanban work or optimizing existing efforts, this framework cultivates constant progress and business transformation through contextualized mastery.

The Seven Levels of Kanban Maturity Model

The Kanban Maturity Model outlines seven distinct levels that organizations progress through as they adopt and master Kanban practices. Each level builds upon the previous one, helping teams and organizations continuously improve their workflow management and achieve higher levels of business agility.

Level 0 – Visualization

The first step is to visualize the existing workflow and make work items and their progress explicit. Teams create a basic kanban board to represent their process and start tracking work items as they flow through the various stages. This provides transparency and highlights potential bottlenecks or constraints.

Level 1 – Kanban Kickstart  

At this level, teams establish work-in-progress (WIP) limits to prevent overloading the system. They also begin measuring lead times and optimizing for flow efficiency by eliminating sources of waste and non-value-added activities. Basic kanban practices like daily standups are implemented.

Level 2 – Kanban Control  

Teams gain control over their process by actively managing WIP limits, buffers, and replenishment policies. Explicit process policies are defined, and classes of service are introduced to prioritize work streams effectively. Feedback loops and continuous improvement practices take root.

Level 3 – Kanban Manageable  

The focus shifts to quantitative management using methods like cumulative flow diagrams and control charts. Processes become more predictable through active risk management, lead time monitoring, and the elimination of variation. Collaboration across teams and departments increases.

Level 4 – Kanban Improving

At this stage, value stream mapping is leveraged to optimize end-to-end workflow across the entire value stream. Systematic experiments drive process improvements using techniques like A/B testing. The organization aligns strategy with portfolio execution using the cost of delay and other economic frameworks.

Level 5 – Kanban Advancing

Organizational mastery of kanban principles leads to strategic initiatives around leadership development, cultural transformation, and business agility.

Roadmaps for continuous process evolution are established based on a long-term vision. Emphasis is placed on learning, coaching, and developing a sustainable competitive advantage.

Level 6 – Kanban Accomplished  

The pinnacle of kanban maturity is where the organization operates as an adaptive, future-proof enterprise.

Kanban capabilities are deeply embedded into the DNA of the organization, allowing it to thrive amidst volatility through rapid sensing and response mechanisms. A culture of relentless improvement is the new normal.

Implementing the Kanban Maturity Model

Adopting the Kanban Maturity Model is an iterative process that requires commitment, patience, and a willingness to continuously improve. It’s not a one-time event but rather a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. Here are some key steps to successfully implement the Kanban Maturity Model in your organization:

  1. Assess Your Current State

    Before embarking on the Kanban journey, it’s crucial to understand your organization’s current maturity level. Conduct a thorough assessment to identify strengths, weaknesses, pain points, and areas for improvement in your workflow processes.
  2. Establish a Guiding Coalition

    Change initiatives are more successful when championed by a guiding coalition of influential leaders and subject matter experts. This coalition should comprise representatives from various departments and levels within the organization to ensure buy-in and alignment.
  3. Create a Roadmap

    Based on your assessment results, develop a roadmap that outlines the specific steps and milestones for progressing through the Kanban Maturity Model levels. This roadmap should be realistic, measurable, and aligned with your organization’s strategic objectives.
  4. Provide Training and Coaching

    Effective implementation of the Kanban Maturity Model requires a deep understanding of its principles, practices, and techniques. Invest in comprehensive training programs and coaching sessions to equip your teams with the necessary knowledge and skills.
  5. Start with Pilot Projects

    Rather than attempting a large-scale transformation, start with pilot projects or specific teams to test and refine your Kanban implementation.

    This approach allows you to learn from experience, make adjustments, and build confidence before scaling across the organization.
  6. Foster Continuous Improvement

    The Kanban Maturity Model emphasizes continuous improvement as a core principle. Encourage a culture of experimentation, feedback, and adaptation.

    Regularly review your progress, identify areas for improvement, and make necessary adjustments to your processes and practices.
  7. Measure and Celebrate Success

    Define clear metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track your progress and measure the success of your Kanban implementation.

    Celebrate milestones and achievements along the way to maintain momentum and reinforce the benefits of the Kanban Maturity Model.
  8. Sustain the Transformation

    Organizational transformation is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Ensure that the Kanban Maturity Model becomes ingrained in your organization’s culture and processes.

    Provide ongoing support, coaching, and reinforcement to sustain the transformation over the long term.

By following these steps and embracing a mindset of continuous improvement, your organization can successfully navigate the Kanban Maturity Model levels and reap the benefits of increased efficiency, productivity, and business agility.

Kanban Maturity Model Practices and Techniques

Implementing the Kanban maturity model requires adopting a set of key practices and techniques. These allow teams to visualize their workflow, limit work in progress, measure cycle times, and continuously improve. 

Visualizing the Workflow

A fundamental kanban practice is creating a visual representation of the workflow, typically using a kanban board.

The board shows the different stages or steps that work items flow through from initial request to final delivery.

Columns on the board represent each process step like “Requested”, “Analysis”, “Development”, “Testing”, etc. This transparency allows the entire team to see the state and progress of work at any given time.

Limiting Work in Progress (WIP) with Kanban Maturity Model

A key practice is establishing explicit WIP limits for each workflow stage. This prevents teams from starting too much work at once and creates a pull-based system where new work is only pulled in when there is available capacity. WIP limits expose bottlenecks and maximize flow efficiency.

Cycle Time Tracking

Teams should measure and optimize for cycle time – the total time it takes for a work item to travel through the whole workflow process. Monitoring cycle times and lead times allows teams to identify process constraints and focus improvement efforts.

Continuous Improvement using Kanban Maturity Model

The ultimate goal of kanban is to enable an organizational culture of continuous improvement. Teams frequently review their workflow, processes, cycle times, quality metrics, etc., and run experiments to optimize and increase delivery flow incrementally.  

Other key kanban mechanisms include:

  • Using kanban cards or icons to represent work items
  • Implementing WIP swimlanes for work item classes 
  • Defining clear entry/exit policies for workflow stages
  • Holding regular service delivery review meetings
  • Using lead/cycle time charts and cumulative flow diagrams
  • Running frequent retrospectives and kaizen events

By adopting and customizing these core practices, teams can effectively visualize their value stream, limit non-value-added work, and continuously improve delivery performance over time.

Organizational Transformation and Change Management with Kanban Maturity Model

Adopting the Kanban maturity model is not just about implementing a new process or workflow. It represents a fundamental shift in how an organization operates and delivers value.

As teams progress through higher maturity levels, wider organizational changes become necessary to sustain improvements and realize strategic benefits.

Change Management

Effective change management is critical for a successful agile transformation using the Kanban method. Organizations must proactively plan for and mitigate resistance to change from individuals and teams.

This involves clear communication of the vision, rationale, and expected benefits. It also requires coaching, training, and addressing concerns to build buy-in and overcome cultural barriers.

Leadership Development using Kanban Maturity Model

Progressing through the kanban maturity levels demands a transition in leadership style from traditional command-and-control to a facilitative, servant-leadership approach.

Leaders must embrace principles of continuous improvement, empower teams, and create an environment conducive to experimentation and learning.

Developing leadership capabilities in areas like systems thinking, coaching, and change facilitation becomes paramount.

Organizational Culture

The higher maturity levels of the model require an aligned organizational culture that reinforces lean-agile values and principles. This cultural transformation involves aspects like:

  • Fostering a blameless environment of trust and psychological safety
  • Encouraging knowledge sharing and collaboration across boundaries  
  • Instilling a mindset of customer focus and continuous learning
  • Aligning strategies, policies, incentive structures, and performance management

A supportive organizational culture provides the foundation for teams to optimize value streams and achieve higher levels of business agility.

By proactively addressing change management, leadership development, and cultural alignment, organizations can increase their odds of success with enterprise-wide kanban implementation and agile transformation.

Case Studies and Success Stories of Kanban Maturity Model

To illustrate the power of the Kanban Maturity Model in driving organizational transformation, let’s look at some case studies and success stories:

Toyota Motor Corporation

Toyota is widely regarded as the pioneer of the Kanban method and lean management principles.

Their implementation of Kanban practices dates back to the 1950s and has been instrumental in their rise as one of the world’s largest and most successful automakers.

Toyota’s Kanban system optimized workflow, reduced waste, and enabled continuous improvement across their entire value stream. Their maturity in Kanban practices is a prime example for organizations across industries.

Siemens Healthcare

Siemens Healthcare adopted the Kanban Maturity Model to improve software development processes for their medical imaging solutions.

By implementing Kanban practices like visualization, WIP limits, and flow management, they achieved a 35% increase in throughput and a 60% reduction in lead times.

Their successful Kanban journey highlights the applicability of the maturity model in complex product development environments.

Lockheed Martin

The aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin used the Kanban Maturity Model to drive an enterprise-wide agile transformation.

By systematically progressing through the maturity levels, they fostered a culture of continuous improvement, enhanced collaboration, and optimized their program management capabilities.

Lockheed’s case study demonstrates the scalability of the maturity model across large, distributed organizations.


The cloud computing company Salesforce adopted the Kanban Maturity Model to streamline its marketing operations and content production workflows.

By embracing Kanban practices like visual management, WIP limits, and bottleneck management, they achieved significant improvements in cycle times, team productivity, and customer satisfaction.

Salesforce’s success story showcases the versatility of the maturity model across diverse business functions.

Next Steps…

The Kanban maturity model charts a course for constantly developing your Kanban implementation and reaching higher process excellence milestones.

Following the 7 outlined stages lets teams progressively upgrade workflow direction, team synergy, and general business flexibility over time.

It’s crucial to remember maturity is a lifelong journey. Even at the most sophisticated level, aim for persistent optimizations adjusting to fluid customer/market conditions.

Some next actions for promoting a successful, lasting Kanban adoption:

  • Regularly weigh your current maturity positioning and pinpoint where to focus efforts next
  • Motivate an attitude of continuous studying and experimenting among teams
  • Keep training and coaching available to deepen understanding of Kanban principles
  • Confirm Kanban aligns with the overarching corporate strategy
  • Leverage info and analytics to recognize bottlenecks, refine processes, and make smarter choices
  • Participate in communities, events, and cross-company connections to expedite maturation and contribute to the broader ecosystem

Cultivating change consciousness and following the next steps sustains maturity. It reaps the benefits of heightened efficiency, dependability, and corporate agility through relentless evolution.

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