"Visualize the workflow" and "Manage flow" have somewhat similar explanations.

What are the artifacts in Kanban?


While the " Visualize the workflow" practice is stressed on analysis it seems that the "Manage flow" practice is more about implementing changes. But yet they both mention understanding/analysis/transparency. Are they the most closely related practices in Kanban?

1) Visualize the workflow

You have to understand what it takes to get an item from request to completion. The goal of Kanban is to make positive change to optimize the flow of work through the system. Only after understanding how the workflow currently functions can you aspire to improve it by making the correct adjustments. Making changes before you understand your workflow is putting the proverbial cart before the horse and can cause you to make choices that are, at best, unhelpful and, at worst, harmful.

3) Manage flow

The whole point of implementing a Kanban system is to create positive change. Before you can create that change you have to know what to change. You figure that out by looking at how value is currently flowing through the system, analyzing problem areas in which value flow is stalled and defining, then implementing, changes. Then, you repeat the cycle to see what effect your changes had on the system because you need to know if the change you made had a positive or negative impact on the things you were attempting to change. You are never finished. To use a cliche, it’s a journey. Something I read recently said that when you fix your first issue, your second one gets a promotion. I think that’s an awesome reminder that we should always strive to make progress.

2 Answers 2


Visualize the Workflow and Manage Flow are related, but different, concepts.

Visualize the Workflow means to make the process by which work gets done visible. This is often done with a Kanban board, where work items are represented by cards and states of work are represented by columns. Kanban boards also make work-in-progress limits visible. You may also see criteria for progressing a work item from one column to another on the board. This represents the current truth for the process that takes work from something that needs to get done all the way to whatever it means to be done.

Manage the Flow happens once you start visualizing work moving through the workflow. After you visualize the workflow, you can visualize work moving through that workflow. You can start to see process steps that take a long time, or process steps that may reject work from upstream process steps, or bottlenecks where work does not flow smoothly through the process and may build up. By finding and identifying these problems, you can start to have conversations about the problems and possible solutions to them.

Making the workflow, and then the actual flow of work, highly visible, it promotes management of flow by highlighting problems and making issues explicit.


Visualising the workflow helps the team to manage the workflow. The visualisation allows the team to make changes and see the impact the changes have.

There is a good argument that managing the workflow would be difficult to do without a good visualisation.

However, visualising the workflow also has other benefits, such as:

  • It helps the team to synchronise their activities - the team can see what work is in progress, what is waiting, what is blocked and (if using avatars) who is working on what task
  • It provides an information radiator - letting people outside of the team see what is going on

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