I noticed that Lean Kanban term appears quite frequently. I've tried to figure out what's the difference between Lean Kanban and Classic, but no success. Maybe someone dealt with both and could describe the difference and explain when to use what?

  • That's a good question but I sometimes wonder if it's necessary at all. I like the attitude mentioned for example kanbantool.com/kanban-library/implementing-kanban/… here. The name of a method is less important than what really works for your team. Of course we use names to make it easier for us - to remember, to differentiate. But name isn't the most important. I probably didn't help to answer the question but there are already some helpful posts, I just let myself express my thoughts ;) Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 15:42

4 Answers 4


Lean is to Kanban as agile is to Scrum. One is a concrete implementation of the other.

Using the term "lean kanban" is just an attempt to court favour from Google/Bing for keyword density and is the result of copywriters rather than an actual thing.

All Kanban is Lean... But not all Lean is Kanban...

  • I disagree that Lean is to Kanban as agile is to Scrum. Lean is also considered to be under the agile umbrella in terms of software development.
    – Neo
    Commented Oct 1, 2019 at 8:54

Kanban is a lean methodology focused on creating continuous flow of work while eliminating waste (muda) in the system. There is no difference between Kanban and Lean Kanban.

Where there are some differences however...

Kanban for software development differs slightly from the classic Lean Kanban formulated by Toyota in the 1980's and used in manufacturing environments.

Here's a good book that focuses on kanban for software development and gets into some of the nuances.

Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business Paperback – April 7, 2010 by David J. Anderson (Author), Donald G Reinertsen (Foreword)

The basic processes, tools, and objectives of Kanban for software development remain unchanged (WIP, JIT, Slack, Pull Model, Cycle Time, SLA, Work Classes, Flow, Eliminate Waste, Visualize all work). However, how work is visualized on the Kanban board is a bit more flexible than in traditional kanban. Also not all work on a software kanban board is necessarily same sized or forced to be same sized.

Its also fairly common to see software teams using Kanban adopting practices from Scrum such as the daily standup, retrospective, Product Owner concept, etc. Some people call these types of teams "Scrumban" teams.


Kanban is a Lean tool, that's about it. There is no Kanban and Lean Kanban. The Kanban method was borrowed from Toyota's Production System (the creators of the Lean processes movement).

See below definition of Kanban:

“Kanban is the Japanese word for “card,” “ticket,” or “sign” and is a tool for managing the flow and production of materials in a Toyota-style “pull” production system.”

Excerpt From: by Jeffrey K. Liker. “The Toyota Way - 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer @Team LiB.” iBooks.

So: Kanban + just in time + kaizen + a variety of other tools = Lean Methodology

  • In the original edition of The Machine That Changed The World they made a mistake to confuse Kanban with Just-in-time. In the next edition they corrected themselves. So Kanban "method" doesn't exist, Kanban is just a card, a sticker. Just-in-time is the method. Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 22:59

And ... let me just kick in one other observation here:

"Toyota Manufactures Cars, Not Software!"

Always keep that in mind.

On the one hand, "project management [methodology ...] is all about finding productive ways to align groups of people in the pursuit of common tasks." However, "the physical manufacture of motor-cars along a production line" is not(!) directly comparable to "the computer-software endeavor," which by its very nature is purely abstract.

Yes, there is a point at which "abstraction" becomes nonsensical. Don't go there. "Methodologies" are useful, but they're not "gospel" and they never were intended to be.

So: "Keep everything in context." Some things are apples. Others are oranges. Both of them are "roughly-globular objects about four inches in diameter which taste good when you cut into them." Grab the useful ideas but know when to quit.

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